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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.44%
Worth A Look31.4%
Average: 26.74%
Pretty Bad: 17.44%
Total Crap: 6.98%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Space Cowboys
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by Erik Childress

"Old Pros Deliver One of the Year's Most Entertaining Films"
4 stars

Space Cowboys starts like The Right Stuff and ends like Armageddon. And as the jokes would have you believe, is a macho version of Cocoon stuffed in-between. Forget about the jokes because none of them are as funny or as entertaining as anything you’ll see and hear in Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort. The old guys in Space Cowboys take the jokes and then make the jokes, at the expense of the youngsters who think they can do it any better. The age difference may be vast, but somewhere in between lies one of the summer’s most entertaining pictures.

The story begins in 1958 when members of Team Daedalus are test-flying yet another of the Air Force’s top planes. After some risk-taking by young Hawk Hawkins and disapproving co-pilot Frank Corvin, they are in for a rude awakening as their dreams of going into space are dashed with the creation of NASA and its faith in a monkey. Flash forward to present day. Daedalus have all taken different careers and a Russian communications satellite is weeks away from crashing back to Earth. The satellite’s guts are so obsolete that all the young hotshots can’t decipher its blueprints. Ole’ Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is identified as the designer of the ill-fated American satellite Skylab, which happens to share the same guidance system as the Russian’s Ikon. So, after some initial reluctance fueled by his utter hatred for his old boss and now NASA bigwig, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell, playing yet another great slimy politician), Frank practically blackmails him into sending up his old team to repair the orbiter. So it’s time, once again, to get the band back together. Tank Sullivan (James Garner) is now an amateurish Baptist preacher. Jerry O’Nell (Donald Sutherland) is a structual engineer who likes to test rollercoasters. And Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) specializes in flying joyride adrenalinists around. What’s so wonderful and fresh about this reunion is that every one of them have little-to-no hesitation of joining up for the mission. These guys want to go into space and their faces light up like little boys when they’re told the news. And that leads to the very funny and audience pleasing moment when the four guys march into NASA headquarters wearing their leather jackets, as cocky as they ever were in their youth.

It’s these scenes and their subsequent mission preparation that provide the real meat of the film in the nearly flawless first hour and a quarter. E! Online is going to have to reevaluate their list of the best vomit scenes in film history, because this one contains a great doozy. And the training scenes are the funniest since Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in Spies Like Us and includes a particularly funny eye exam. But what truly shines are the four actors doing their thing to the fullest and playing off each other with such wit and grace. Eastwood can do light comedy with the best of ‘em and he’s surrounded himself with consummate pros and friends who can match him punchline for punchline. Tommy Lee Jones is a great foil as the risk-taking Hawk whose friendship with Frank has been strained over the years but we believe him and understand when he finally gets to say “thank you.” Donald Sutherland (reuniting with his Kelly’s Heroes co-star) gets his chance to get away from those unworthy stiff roles of mentor/government official/villain he’s been typecast in for the past decade (with the exception of Without Limits) and go back to the wild and crazy roles he played so well back in the 60s and 70s as the ladykiller, Jerry. And James Garner (reuniting with his one-time Maverick guest star) rounds out the cast nicely with his quintessential comic timing. Other performances worthy of note include the always dependable and aforementioned Cromwell. Marcia Gay Harden is given time outside of her NASA speeches for a nicely written romantic relationship between her mission director character, Sara Holland, and Hawk. Even William Devane gets to make a comeback in a nice gum-chewing role as the tough but responsible flight director, Eugene Davis, which seems to owe a little inspiration to NASA’s veteran flight director, Gene Kranz.

Where the film starts to diminish a little is after the crew is well into outer space. Not because Eastwood can’t handle the action or the special effects, but that the mission footage seems a little too rushed. After the well-toned and familiar handling of director Eastwood setting up his characters and the relationships, either the script or his editors cheat him by not giving him enough to do for his third act. There’s a wonderful surprise that awaits our heroes upon docking with the satellite, promising some real Cold War-like suspense. But after the initial discovery and a minor crisis that changes the course of the mission, action becomes very relaxed and too nonchalant to invest any serious emotion or gut-twisting.

For all the jokes that are bound to be made (that already haven’t been), the four principles are actors that only seem to get better with age. Clint Eastwood, the director, in particular, has all but quashed most of the cynicism of critics from early in his career. From the classic westerns (The Outlaw Josey Wales & Unforgiven) to action thrillers (Firefox & Absolute Power) to more serious fare (the underrated A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County & Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), here is a filmmaker that is always willing to try something different yet continue to use the same subtle approach to his characters and plotlines. This makes him infinitely better than the increasing number of MTV graduates who don’t understand that sometimes less editing can equal more than just an extended running time. Eastwood avoids using the melodramatic “go get ‘em”/”Armageddon” approach to the actual launch. He simply makes it just part of these guys’ jobs without resorting to a synthesized patriotic music score or slow-motion hero shots. And this is not a film that is skewered to an older audience, or at least it shouldn’t be. Anyone, young or old, who likes entertaining, funny, fantasy adventure films is bound to have a great time watching Space Cowboys. (Note: A special Oscar should be given to the casting director who found the actor that plays the young Eastwood. It’s one of the best casting jobs of young actors to play familiar faces since the opening scene in Sneakers with the young Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley.)

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originally posted: 08/04/00 09:24:01
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell boring old geezer action flick 1 stars
6/28/17 FireWithFire Would've been good - with actors better than Dead-ass Sutherland and Jones in their parts. 3 stars
1/03/10 Jeff Wilder Nothing new. But fun and likable. 4 stars
1/27/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike OK effort from The Man. 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Oh man! Damn old people! I'm going to take a nap. 2 stars
9/01/03 John Bale Veteran screen stars prove their worth in saving the planet. Amusing Sci Fi Drama. 4 stars
4/05/03 R.W. Welch Not bad for a bunch of old guys; pretty well constructed. 4 stars
1/04/03 Jack Sommersby One of Eastwood's worst. The pits. 1 stars
7/09/02 Danielle Ophelia Lightweight, though nowhere near fluff. The ending is almost MORBID. 4 stars
1/08/02 Andrew Carden Reminds You Of How An All-Star Cast Can Fail So Quickly. 1 stars
10/10/01 Butterbean IEastwood and Jones together, wow! And they picked a perfect guy to play the young Eastwood 4 stars
9/02/01 radium Nice acting, nice dialogs, nice sound fx 5 stars
8/01/01 hoppilong this script needs a triple dose of viagra. The relationships are all shallow. 2 stars
7/02/01 Phil M. Afficianado Erik the Movieman has the Daedalus honing in on Icon. Great fun. 4 stars
6/21/01 J Here is one movie that I mainly agree with Cochise on. 5 stars
5/02/01 Monday Morning You young punks can eat our tattered boxers...this is a great adventure flick for guys. 5 stars
5/01/01 The Bomb 69 funny stuff, not great but good 4 stars
11/09/00 Patti Boring, boring, boring, stupid, and boring 1 stars
10/22/00 Anthony This film was really good 5 stars
10/21/00 Tank Merging special effects and characterisation Eastwood shows it can work. 4 stars
10/20/00 Viking Not a great film but still fun to watch 4 stars
9/08/00 Jed Funny & Suspenseful! One of the years best! 5 stars
8/27/00 Joe Smaltz Very good, had well done special effects, but did not substitute them for content. 5 stars
8/21/00 ClintEastwoodIsCreepy This movie was *so* boring 1 stars
8/18/00 Narf Outstanding first 90 min, then things move along to swiftly to a blase denoument. 4 stars
8/14/00 KoHawk Predictable, boring, somewhat funny. Anti climactic. 3 stars
8/09/00 Poetcdh Entertaining, good chemistry between actors 5 stars
8/09/00 PJ Movie kicked ass! For all you ignorant's that say its for old people, I feel sorry for you 5 stars
8/09/00 Manda It had it's moments. Wait for it on video 3 stars
8/08/00 Captain Highcrime "Armageddon" for the "Murder She Wrote" crowd. 4 stars
8/08/00 extar-bags Good all around. Funny, yet serious. 4 stars
8/07/00 The Rock It was stupid,repetitive, and cliched 1 stars
8/07/00 Jim Kidd I cant say anything but that this movie rocks 5 stars
8/06/00 chuck Entertaining, funny 4 stars
8/05/00 Rue the Whirl It's a Russian doomsday machine! 3 stars
8/04/00 TimmyToday Blast off to boredom and beyond. 2 stars
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  05-Oct-2000 (PG)

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