Fly Me to the Moon
Photograph: Dan McFadden/Sony Pictures
  • Film
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Fly Me to the Moon

3 out of 5 stars

Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum provide star power to a wholesome Space Age romcom


Time Out says

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe the moon landing was the greatest feat of ingenuity in human history, and the conspiracy theorists who think it was all a bunch of hogwash. Greg Berlanti’s (Love, Simon) feelgood, summer romcom is probably as close as we’ll ever get to calling a truce.

Set long before smart phones and social media, the film’s recreation of 1969 is a simpler, cosier time. Well, for everyone except Cole Davies (Channing Tatum), the NASA launch director in charge of getting Apollo 11 to the moon. It’s a task complicated by his involvement in the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission just two years earlier. Arguably, the only job harder than getting a rocket to the moon is convincing Congress that trying it again is a good idea. Enter Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson), a charismatic marketing exec with enough pizzazz to sell the story.

While Cole is as dependable as grandma’s apple pie, Kelly likes to play things fast and loose. A shadowy White House figure, played by a delightfully off-beat Woody Harrelson, forces Kelly to stage a fake moon landing behind Cole’s back in case the mission fails (shades of 1979 conspiracy thriller Capricorn One here). It’s a juicy subplot that also introduces a scene-stealing as Community’s Jim Rash takes as a zany commercial director hired to orchestrate an elaborate production in place of  Stanley Kubrick – a playful nod to the moon landing conspiracy that the 2001: A Space Odyssey director was hired to direct the hoax. 

Houston, we have a likeable, if somewhat forgettable romcom

Tatum and Johansson are sparky and fun as colleagues embarking on a probably ill-advised workplace romance. The latter is in rare form as Kelly effortlessly shapeshifts between her different personas to charm powerful men into doing her bidding. 

It’s not all flirting, rocket ships and lunar rock. The wide-eyed optimism of the Space Age is juxtaposed effectively with the despair of the Vietnam War. It’s closer to The Martian than Hidden Figures in its scientific rigor, but there’s a nice sense of authenticity and period, thanks to Mary Zophres’s gorgeous costumes and Shane Valentino’s production design. (Helpfully, NASA allowed filming at its headquarters in Washington DC too.)

But even with its two A-list stars as jet boosters, Fly Me To The Moon’s bloated runtime and messy plotting mean that it doesn’t quite make it beyond the Kármán line. Then again, the art of the formulaic romcom isn’t rocket science. Houston, we have a likeable, if somewhat forgettable romcom – and that’s okay.

In cinemas worldwide Jul 12.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Greg Berlanti
  • Screenwriter:Rose Gilroy
  • Cast:
    • Scarlett Johansson
    • Channing Tatum
    • Jim Rash
    • Woody Harrelson
    • Ray Romano
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