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Richard Dreyfuss Gets A Space Worthy Showcase With “Astronaut”

How long has it been since Richard Dreyfuss got a proper starring vehicle? No matter what answer you give, the most apt one is this: too long. Well, this weekend, that changes with the release of Astronaut, an independent drama about a man hoping to become an astronaut late in life. Dreyfuss elevates the material, which could get a bit of an extra push considering the recent anniversary of man walking on the moon. Renewed interest in NASA and space exploration might help put a bit of a bonus spotlight on this one, though Dreyfuss himself is enough of a selling point. Nothing too special is happening here, but it’s a small scale movie that does just enough right in order to warrant a recommendation.

The film is a light drama about an older gentleman finally trying to achieve a lifelong dream. Angus (Dreyfuss) was once a highly respected civil engineer, those these days, the senior citizen is just lonely and trying not to be a burden to his family, who have just moved him to a rest home. Sparked by his grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence), Angus enters a competition being held to give one person a seat on the first commercial flight to space, held by the billionaire Marcus (Colm Feore). Having always wanted to be an astronaut, something inside him fuels the long shot bid, despite being way over the age limit. Initially looked at with skepticism, including from his son in law Jim (Lyriq Bent), Angus is one of the finalists chosen. From there, things get interesting, involving family drama, a potential disaster with the flight, and a path to redemption for Angus. Shelagh McLeod writes and directs, while the supporting cast includes Krista Bridges, Graham Greene, Art Hindle, and more.

Pleasant yet paper thin, Astronaut winds up being worth the investment due to Richard Dreyfuss and his sympathetic performance. The indie lives and dies due to Dreyfuss, especially considering how thinly drawn the rest of the characters are. The family drama the weaves in and out of the narrative is blandly handled, while the third act introduction of a race against time seems slightly phoned in. Individually, these aspects are flaws. Together, they’re shielded by the actor and manage not to sink the production. Filmmaker Shelagh McLeod doesn’t quite give him the showcase this could have been, but it’s still an easily enjoyable one, even if it’s only good when it could have been great.

Richard Dreyfuss clearly relishes having this late career leading man role. Leaning into the brains of the character, as well as the failing health of Angus, he crafts the sort of turn that reminds everyone just how good an actor he is. It’s the type of performance that, in a more prestige-laden film, would result in awards buzz. He succeeds where other cast members like Lyriq Bent, Krista Bridges, Colm Feore, Graham Greene, and Richie Lawrence don’t quite rise to the occasion. Now, they all work well with Dreyfuss, resulting in some cute scenes, but they leave the veteran actor really carrying most of the load. Luckily, he’s more than up to the challenge.

This week, fans of Dreyfuss and those still on the high of the aforementioned 50th anniversary of the moon landing would do well to give a shot to Astronaut. Old fashioned and simple, it manages to be a success story due to Dreyfuss and the charm of the material. He makes the flick worthwhile. If you’re looking for something above and beyond, this isn’t the movie to venture out for. However, if you’re just hoping for a nice 90 minutes and change of entertainment, while admiring a legend at work, this more than holds its own. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Astronaut, in theaters this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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