Space Cowboys

Just in case someone misses it, the running joke in Space Cowboys is that the four would-be astronauts are old. The jokes fly continuously about old age. There's even a (frightening) nude scene. All of this happens so amiably that it is hard to resist. Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner all have their share of roles that will remain timeless. Now, they can basically do whatever the heck they want. And they wanted to do Space Cowboys. They have so much fun taking lighthearted jabs at themselves that the watching the movie is just as fun. After all, it takes guts for Eastwood to hike his pants up so high.

A black and white opening sets the story in motion. Set in the infancy of the space program, Team Daedalus was to be the first team of humans in space. Because of team squabbling, jealousy, and a new agency named NASA, Frank Corvin (Eastwood, True Crime, Absolute Power), Hawk Hawkins (Jones, Double Jeopardy, Rules of Engagement), Jerry O'Neil (Sutherland, Without Limits, Instinct), and Tank Sullivan (Garner, Twilight, My Fellow Americans) lost their chance to a monkey. Forty years later, IKON, a Russian satellite, is reentering the atmosphere. It contains an outdated system based on a design by Corvin. Oddly enough, Corvin's system, originally designed for Skylab, found its way into a Russian satellite at the height of the Cold War. Bob Gerson (James Cromwell, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Green Mile), Corvin's old boss and nemesis, agrees to allow Team Daedalus a shot at going into space to fix IKON. The bulk of Space Cowboys consists of Eastwood and company preparing to go into space. Remember, all of them are still younger than Sen. John Glenn when he recently went into space.

Just to keep the mind occupied, Ken Kaufman (Muppets From Space) and Howard A. Klausner's script turn Space Cowboys into an action movie. It's no big surprise what IKON's secret is. Space Cowboys is really two movies, a comedy then an action movie; Armageddon with senior citizens. Then change is abrupt, and the action portion almost unnecessary. Any magic in the first part of the film is lost in the vacuum of space in the latter part, which turns into an ordinary, familiar action sequence. Familiar in every way except for NASA's sanctioning the use of their logo in the film, giving everything a true-to-life look.

Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland, and Garner obviously enjoyed their roles. Even Cromwell, the antagonist of the film, seems to crack a smile when yelling at Eastwood. In a way, all this lightheartedness takes away from the tension at the end. But it is also infectious to the audience. The actors have so much fun that the audience is easily caught up in their shenanigans. Space Cowboys does not really aspire to be anything else. And in this summer of lowbrow comedy, it is a nice alternative.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some language.

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