Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long
Reporter: No offense, but NASA spends ten years, billions of dollars so that we can watch man walk on the moon…and in the end it falls to you blokes! …I mean…how do you feel about that?
Mitch: A lot better before you opened your trap!
It’s the summer of 1969, and the Apollo 11 mission to the moon is about to launch. A small town in Australia, Parkes, has a huge sattelite dish that needs to be used to receive video of the first moon walk. It’s a huge opportunity for this little community, but it doesn’t all go as smoothly as planned. An American, Al (Warburton), is there to help Cliff (Neill), Glen (Long), and Mitch (Harrington) make sure that when Neil Armstrong takes that first step, the whole world will be able to see it live.
I’ve always been into space exploration, so there’s an inherent interest for me in this story. The problem is, I never felt like the movie achieved any real authenticity in its telling of the story. The stuff in the dish is the better portion of the movie, and I wish they had stuck to that rather than cutting back and forth to scenes of the overly colorful – and mostly extraneous – towns folk. It is a comedy, so I know they were going for a bit of goofiness via the characters around town, but I guess I just didn’t find those moments funny. The best comedic moments also came from in and around the dish.
If I had been making this movie, the whole thing would have taken place at the big dish, with various other characters visiting at times. I think it would have created a sense of isolation for this crew working there that could have paralleled the isolation of the astronauts on the moon in a way. By cutting away from them over and over again, there’s no momentum built up in the movie that can carry us to the big ending where their work pays off.
Speaking of the ending, it devolves too much into what looks like a Discovery Channel special about the moon landing. We see lots of actual footage from the moon and from news broadcasts of anchors and random citizens crying and looking amazed. I’ve seen all that stuff before. I’d rather stick with our main characters and see their reactions.
I don’t want to give the impression that this is a bad movie. It’s pleasant and amusing, but it’s just not as good a movie as I think it could have been. I wanted to know more about this crew that was basically living at this big dish for a whole week. At least, I think they were living there full time. I’m not really sure because the movie really doesn’t show us that. One character mentions being married, but we never see his wife. Did she not visit during that entire time? To me, really delving into these guys lives, and the real ins and outs of operating this huge satellite dish, would have made a more interesting movie.
The smaller the town, the more colorful the personalities of its inhabitants. Especially if it’s a foreign town.
10 – 2.3 for all the dull, unfunny bits with the town folks – 1.3 for the documentary like ending + .5 for some legitimately touching moments = 6.9