Richard Linklater Goes to the Moon, But Keeps Things Grounded in Apollo 10 1/2: Review

Richard Linklater's latest is a dewey, rotoscoped reminiscence on his childhood imagination

Apollo 10 1/2 Review

This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

The Pitch: Anyone and everyone who was alive in the summer of 1969 likely knows where they were when they saw the first men landing on the moon on their television screens. But for young Stan (Milo Coy), his experience was a li’l different.

Turns out, months before the iconic trip, the suburban Houstonite was approached by a couple of NASA suits for a once-in-a-lifetime mission. You see, due to an engineering blunder, they’d built the lunar module juuust a bit too small for an adult astronaut. So they needed a kid. And Stan, of course, is the perfect candidate.

This didn’t happen, of course; it’s the stuff of childhood reverie, and adult Stan (Jack Black), who narrates, establishes early that he was a “fabulist.. which is just a nicer way of saying ‘persistent liar’.”

But Richard Linklater’s latest flirtation with rotoscoped animation (after Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly) treats the tall tale with all the bright-eyed confidence of science fiction, weaving Stan’s space-age adventure with a nostalgic look back at the everyday rhythms of his life that fateful summer. Think Stand By Me meets The Right Stuff.

Boyhood… in Space! Richard Linklater has long been the master of a particular kind of nostalgia, specifically the autobiographical kind: Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!!Boyhood, and others have all charted the clothes, attitudes, and most importantly, music of ’60s/’70s Americana.

Apollo 10 1/2 is the latest in this interrogation of his own childhood, a semi-autobiographical account of his youth in a Texas suburb and the oversized family he belonged to. And despite its space-race auspices, that’s where the film mostly likes to sit, meticulously observing the rituals and anecdotes that made up his upbringing.

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (Netflix)
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (Netflix)

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