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Movie Review: ‘Spaceman’ | Moviefone




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Adam Sandler as Jakub in 'Spaceman.'

Adam Sandler as Jakub in ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Larry Horricks/Netflix © 2023.

Launching on Netflix on Friday, March 1st, ‘Spaceman’ represents Adam Sandler headlining a very different sort of movie, something more along the lines of ‘Solaris’ or ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, but though it reaches for the sort of emotional and intellectual depths explored by those movies, it ends up more stifling than inspiring.

We’ll still give Sandler credit, though, for trying something different –– which he’s been fully exploring under his deal with Netflix, hopping from the sort of broad comedy that made his cinematic name to coming-of-age stories and animated work.

Related Article: Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan Talk Director Johan Renck’s ‘Spaceman’

Does ‘Spaceman’ explore new frontiers?

Adam Sandler as Jakub in 'Spaceman.'

Adam Sandler as Jakub in ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

Though its director has gone on record to say that ‘Spaceman’ doesn’t fall within the sci-fi genre, the hallmarks are certainly there –– a space exploration mission to a mysterious cloud of particles that has dominated the Earth’s night sky for the last few years. An astronaut (though in the movie, Sandler’s Jakub Prochazka describes himself as a cosmonaut) on a mission where emotional and philosophical issues are discussed. An alien creature.

But while all of that is worthy of note, none of it really adds up to a truly satisfying experience. True, it doesn’t dig down into the technical minutiae of how the mission works, but the actual storyline for the most part doesn’t get the job done, leading to patches of cod-metaphysical journeys into Jakub’s past.

Script and Direction

Johan Renck (Director) and Adam Sandler as Jakub on the set of 'Spaceman.'

(L to R) Johan Renck (Director) and Adam Sandler as Jakub on the set of ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Jon Pack/Netflix © 2023.

While Colby Day’s career has mostly been in the comedy sphere, he’s clearly on something of a speculative fiction kick of late, since as well as adapting Jaroslav Kalfar’s 2017 novel ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’, he’s also worked on original sci-fi script ‘In the Blink of an Eye’, which ‘Wall-E’ director Andrew Stanton is filming right now.

Day takes the usual streamlining liberties with the book’s story, though it’s mostly faithful to the original. It offers quite the character for Sandler to take on –– Jakub Prochazka is more along the lines of his work in movies such as ‘Punch Drunk Love’ or ‘Uncut Gems’ (though it’s certainly not as intense as that Safdie brothers effort).

Jakub is a morose, haunted man, one with a painful troubled past and a marriage that is disintegrating –– though it was already on life support even when he was on Earth.

Hanus (voice by Paul Dano) in Spaceman.'

Hanus (voice by Paul Dano) in Spaceman.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

On the positive front, the script does have some interesting, satirical things to say about the commercialization of space travel, with Jakub endorsing products and, at one point, required to spout a sponsor’s ad copy before he can use a pivotal part of his ship. And it’s not a joke that is run into the ground. Talking of jokes –– there really are not many in this film, which isn’t designed to be a laugh-fest, but if you’re a fan of classic Sandler, there is at least an early running gag about a toilet on board the ship.

Director Johan Renck, who has worked on a variety of music videos, commercials, shorts and movies, scored acclaim for ‘Chernobyl’ on the small screen. Here, he brings a retro sensibility to both the spaceship and Earth-set scenes, while the effects team works to make sure that the arachnoid extraterrestrial Jakub meets on his journey doesn’t clash with the chunky, old school ship –– it feels practical and tactile.

His work with the actors is perhaps less effective; Carey Mulligan in particular feeling like she’s left more adrift than Sandler.

Performances

Adam Sandler as Jakub and Carey Mulligan as Lenka in 'Spaceman.'

(L to R) Adam Sandler as Jakub and Carey Mulligan as Lenka in ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

This is very much Sandler’s show, and he brings a heartbroken, deflated power to Jakub. This is a man who is carrying some very heavy weight from his past, both years ago (thanks to his father’s Communist background and fiery fate) and more current (his relationship to Mulligan’s Lenka, which has become distant in more ways than the miles across space).

The actor has long proved he can handle dramatic roles, though Jakub doesn’t always give him the fuel he needs –– with the film spending chunks of time on silence and imagery that wants to be more meaningful than it is, it doesn’t always do his commitment justice.

Adam Sandler as Jakub and Carey Mulligan as Lenka in 'Spaceman.'

(L to R) Adam Sandler as Jakub and Carey Mulligan as Lenka in ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

As Lenka, Carey Mulligan does what she can with the role, but her whole character appears to be motivated by her feelings towards her husband and the impending birth of their child. She has little function outside of that, but the actor still proves that she’s one of the best at what she does.

Paul Dano, meanwhile, is the voice of Hanuš, the spidery alien, eons old, who is fascinated by humanity. Dano brings a pleasingly calm authority to the voice, and makes you feel for the creature almost more than most of the humans in the story.

Beyond those two, there are small roles for the likes of Isabella Rossellini (as the steely yet compassionate chief of the space program), Kunal Nyyar (playing Peter, who communicates with Jakub from Earth) and Lena Olin as Zdena, Lenka’s mother.

Final Thoughts

Adam Sandler as Jakub in 'Spaceman.'

Adam Sandler as Jakub in ‘Spaceman.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

The movie thinks it has more on its mind than it does, leading to long meditations on marriage and metaphysics that are never as revelatory as it thinks it is.

Still, it’s a mostly worthy showcase for Sandler and to a lesser degree Dano, even if the rest of the cast feel like they’re following in the two leads’ wake.

‘Spaceman’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

What is the Plot of ‘Spaceman’?

As an astronaut (Adam Sandler) is sent to the edge of the solar system to collect mysterious ancient dust finds his earthly life falling to pieces, he turns to the only voice who can help him try to put it back together. It just so happens to belong to a creature (Paul Dano) from the beginning of time lurking in the shadows of his ship.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Spaceman’?

Adam Sandler as Jakub and Hanus in 'Spaceman.'

(L to R) Adam Sandler as Jakub and Hanus in ‘Spaceman.’ Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

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