MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood - Streaming on Netflix
Animated Feature directed by Richard Linklater
There’s an old joke popular with baby boomers that said if you remembered the 60s, you weren’t really there.
Here’s the thing: The only ones who understand this gag are old people who were young back in the 1960s and 70s. (You know – grandparents) and even they don’t think this joke is all that funny. I can vouch for that; I’m one of them!
So why is there a movie like Apollo 10½, specifically made to help everyone remember the 60s? The easy explanation is that writer-director Richard Linklater was a kid back then and based the lead character Stan (voiced by Milo Coy as a 4th grader and Jack Black as the adult narrator) on his memories of growing up in Houston, Texas during the time of NASA and the space race.
The film covers a few years in Stan’s life but finds its culmination in the Apollo 11 moon landing. Stan’s father works for NASA in shipping and receiving, so there is some family pride at play. Stan is also the youngest of six kids, which provides him with many memories of childhood, including pop culture, playground games, and fighting for a place on the sofa.
The movie (and the trailer) begins with a bit of a fake-out, hinting that Apollo 10½ will show us an alternative history in which Stan becomes the first person to step out on the moon. I don’t mind spoiling this twist, since what follows is a relentlessly boring first-person ramble about how cool things were back in the days, when you could hang out with your friends unsupervised for hours, watch tons of neat shows on TV – even though there were only 3 or 4 channels, and go to a cheesy space-themed local amusement park in your upper-middle-class suburb. Sure, Stan is aware that there is a war in Viet Nam going on and that there are major racial divides. But his imagination and loving family will distract him from such worries.
The animation is fairly creative and the production uses music, newsreel footage, and motion capture together in interesting and often amusing ways. But it is all pretty wrapping paper covering a somewhat small package.
Linklater has mined gold from his life before, using his high school years for 1993’s Dazed and Confused and his college days for 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! Those films were entertaining because they showed us what life was like. The problem with Apollo 10 ½ is that it tells us about everything. If you feel like spending 90 minutes with an older man regaling you with endless reminiscences about his fun childhood days, buckle into your spacesuit and come along.
Note: If you are interested in a better space adventure from the past, let me recommend Star Wars, which takes place “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: A warm nostalgic trip through the 1960s that no one was asking for.
Two pitchforks: Adult stuff filtered through a pre-teen’s eyes, including hippies, recreational drugs, beer, Playboy Magazine, occasional swearing, animated depictions of TV newscasts of war and civil disobedience.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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