Johnny Oleksinski

Johnny Oleksinski

Movies

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ review: Rom-com about a fake moon landing is phony, too

movie review

FLY ME TO THE MOON

Running time: 132 minutes. Rated PG-13 (some strong language and smoking). In theaters July 12.

“Fly Me to the Moon,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, is best summed up by the next lyric of Frank Sinatra’s song.

Let me play among the stars. 

Director Greg Berlanti’s romantic comedy, which imagines that Richard Nixon’s administration really did film a fake, backup moon landing in 1969, is a mystifying misfire all along the way from initial concept to end credits.

Where his movie does achieve liftoff, however, is its charming pair of A-list leads, who are mostly immune to the deadly material. Johansson and Tatum have a sparky, opposites-attract chemistry, and they are indeed fun to play among for a while.

So ends the niceties.

This one’s a doozy. Berlanti and screenwriters Rose Gilroy, Keenan Flynn and Bill Kirstein have made what resembles an earnest historical reenactment feature. You know, those heartwarming and exaggerated (but broadly factual) movies such as “Hidden Figures” or “October Sky.” 

Only — spoiler alert? — the US government did not shoot a staged moon landing. And if you believe otherwise, please, I beg you, don’t email me.

How are we supposed to be inspired, moved and swept up by a story we know full well is phony? A more stylish director with a strong point of view and a finer script could perhaps figure it out. But Berlanti, a TV bigwig who also helmed the sweet “Love, Simon,” is not skilled enough to answer that vital question.

Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum star in “Fly Me to the Moon.” AP

The film feels as false as its plot, by the way. The story is carelessly spun off from a real event: NASA’s public relations department actually did advocate for the Apollo 11 moon landing to be broadcast live on TV. Their entire campaign was a roaring success.

But Johansson’s Kelly Jones? The genius Manhattan marketing guru who uses fake identities to get ahead like she’s Leo in “Catch Me If You Can”? Didn’t exist.

Kelly, whose weepy backstory revealed in the end comes out of nowhere, is tasked by a shadowy (and fake!) figure representing Nixon, Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson, didn’t exist), with jetting to Cape Canaveral to boost public opinion of the space program.

“You’ll work with NASA to sell the moon,” says Moe. “Nobody disagrees with the moon.”

The film imagines that the US government really did film a fake moon landing — as a backup. AP

More shiftily, he demands that she secretly shoot an imitation moon landing in case the mission doesn’t go as planned.

So, the marketer hires a stereotypically gay, hack director named Lance Vespertine (Jim Rash, didn’t exist) for the down-low gig. She calls him “the Kubrick of commercials.” 

Throughout this ridiculousness, Kelly butts heads with Tatum’s launch director Cole Davis, who’s wracked with guilt from the fatal Apollo 1 mission and resents the glossy, New Yorky distraction of Jones’ media blitz.

Feeling for tortured Cole as he mourns the losses of astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee is a tall order, since he did not exist.

With neatly coiffed hair and royal blue and golden yellow shirts, Tatum is the image of William Shatner as Captain Kirk.

The argumentative duo soon manage to see past their differences … because they are both hot.?

Johansson and Tatum have a will-they-won’t-they chemistry in “Fly Me to the Moon.” AP

For those keeping score at home, “Fly Me to the Moon” is a “countdown to launch” space race movie, a fizzy rom-com, a conspiracy theory send-up in which Woody Harrelson reveals that aliens live among us and an attempt at a soaring-soundtrack tearjerker.

What it’s not is a satisfying or cogent film.

Instead, allow me to recommend the fantastic documentary “Apollo 11,” which is told through painstakingly restored behind-the-scenes footage of that monumental day in American history that makes you feel like you’re there. 

No offense to the lovely Johansson and Tatum, but as far as stars in Apollo 11 mission stories go, I prefer the giant gaseous kind.

news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news