‘Fly Me To The Moon’: A pleasant enough voyage

‘Fly Me To The Moon’: A pleasant enough voyage
Image: Image supplied by Sony Pictures.

There’s certainly nothing in Fly Me To The Moon that attempts to surprise you: our two attractive leads meet by chance before they find out they have to work together, where they immediately butt heads despite the mutual attraction. They fall out, but greater forces at play mean they must band together.

We’ve all seen a number of films with that mix of rom-com and drama like this before, but to the credit of Greg Berlanti’s Fly Me To The Moon, I’ve never seen one with a setting quite like the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. Not only that, the film asks an entertaining question; what if the moon landing was simultaneously done for real and faked?

Maybe it’s just the strength of this great idea, but Fly Me To The Moon gets off the launchpad and enjoys a fairly stable, if vastly overlong, flight. Though far from a giant leap for mankind, it’s a pleasant enough voyage to the destination.

A fictitious interpretation of the events that put man on the moon, Fly Me To The Moon follows advertising maestro Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson) as she attempts to rehabilitate the image of the Apollo program – much to the chagrin of director Colt Davis (Channing Tatum). Meanwhile, a mysterious G-man known as Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson) works with Kelly to simultaneously fake the moon landing to ensure the USA’s space race victory over the Soviets.

Cole Davis (Channing Tatum), Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson) and Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson) in ‘Fly Me To The Moon’. Image supplied by Sony Pictures

The film largely works thanks to the charisma that Johansson and Tatum share. I was initially sceptical of their ability to riff with one another, but I found their dynamic consistently charming enough by the end of the film to feel a sense of satisfaction at their admittedly obvious character arcs.

Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson as Moe appears every 20 minutes or so to deliver a dose of slightly deranged energy that consistently caused chuckles in the theatre. Ray Romano features as engineer Henry Smalls, though is somewhat underutilised given his tenure as a comedic actor, but a real standout is Jim Rash as Lance Vespertine, the catty director hired to fake the moon landing.

Even if the film is deeply predictable, the premise of the film delivers enough extra sauce to keep it entertaining; though it leans into the fake moon landing thing less than you’d expect. Nonetheless, using the truly awe-inspiring story of that first moon landing is a cheat code for investment, even when served with a near-overdose of American patriotism.

Obviously they get to the moon – it’s based in reality after all – but I found it hard to resist imagining what it would be like to have seen that rocket take off from Cape Canaveral, uncertain of whether those men would reach Earth’s lunar body. Fly Me To The Moon is a bit like Kelly in that way, attempting to make us remember why we first fell in love with space travel. Though the film hardly inspires the same awe, it still made me wonder why we stopped attempting to play among the stars.

★★★
In cinemas July 11

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