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Movie Review

Space Cowboys

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language

Reviewed by: Hillari Hunter
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Sci-Fi
Length:
2 hr. 9 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, and Donald Sutherland in Space Cowboys
Featuring: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, James Cromwell, Donald Sutherland
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producer: Andrew Lazar, Clint Eastwood
Distributor: Warner Brothers

When NASA discovers a Russian satellite is about to crash to Earth, spotlight hogging space program official Bob Gerson asks former Air Force pilot Frank Corvin to help fix it. Frank (Clint Eastwood) wrote the original computer code, and current space engineers can’t read the program, which is now outdated. Frank insists that Gerson give him and his former team of pilots a chance to go into space—a chance that Gerson (James Cromwell) denied them 42 years before when NASA came into being. Frank rounds up Tank (James Garner), who became a Baptist minister, and Jerry (Donald Sutherland), who now designs roller coasters. Frank has a long-term rivalry and grudge match with the final member, Hawk (Tommy Lee Jones), who became a stunt pilot.

Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys The situation pokes fun at their advanced age, but it’s done in a playful, good-natured way. Jerry is a major flirt for whom no woman is off limits, while Hawk begins a relationship with Sara Holland (Marcia Gay Harden), an engineer. The second half of the film follows the team as they reach the broken satellite and discover that it carries a deadly secret. Tank is the only person in the film who professes a belief in God. He’s not portrayed, however, as a stereotypical man of God. The script shows Tank’s faith in a subtle way without beating the audience over the head with it.

The profanities in this movie are mild in comparison to other recent movies with a PG-13 rating. There is no explicit sex in the movie. The team is shown partially nude during a scene in a doctor’s office. Jerry spouts off some sexual comments. The violence is minor, and no blood is seen. Older audiences will appreciate this action movie.


Viewer Comments
My wife and I both enjoyed this movie and would let our older teens watch it. It is too bad that they didn’t edit out the “orgasm” comment and the rear nudity. A bit of editing, a better character for James Garner, and a more realistic ending would have given us an excellent film. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—Phil G., age 49
I saw this film with a good friend who attends a Baptist church. We both enjoyed the film, for what it was, and he as a Baptist was not offended by the portrayal of Tank (the James Garner character, supposedly a Baptist preacher), but he told me he was sure many other Baptists would be. I can see why. The “why the h*ll not” line was funny, but left me uneasy; the way he (that is, the screenwriters) muffed the chance for a prayer at takeoff was sad. In recent years, even such action-adventure films as “Deep Impact” and such comedies as “Runaway Bride” have managed to give us sensitive, plausible, sympathetic pictures of Christian clergy. I am not sure why the makers of this film felt compelled to do otherwise. In most other respects, I hasten to add, the film was fun and funny and inoffensive. A warning to parents who may be thinking about taking their pre-teens, however: You will be asked, if your child does not already know, what the word “orgasm” means. If you, like me, cover your children’s ears at awkward moments, the word occurs during Donald Sutherland’s appearance with Jay Leno about midway in the film. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Stephen, age 45
I enjoyed this movie very much. I don’t think it was at all offensive to me as a Catholic. The humor was good and the special effects were very good. The crowd I was with were mainly older couples and appeared to also enjoy themselves. My Ratings: [4/4]
—Louis, age 39
This is a decent movie starring 4 great actors. the story is a little weak, and other characters are lacking in full dimension, but there is humor and suspense and some interesting information about space travel. My only real gripe is that the minister character played by James Garner made some mockery of Christianity, with his little hula dancer doll with him at all times and his ignorance of the Bible. People laughed, and I guess that is why. Movie Christianity is so easy to ridicule. What a shame. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
Halyna Barannik, age 54
rather humourous, especially for the over-50 crowd. The “wisdom of the elders” shines through as these four wannabe astronauts finally get their turn in space. Even though the storyline was somewhat predictable, the comedic timing of the four veteran actors was pretty impressive. A welcome relief from the “go ahead, make my day” routine of Clint Eastwood. Donald Sutherland plays a good-guy whose penchant for the phrase, “Holy Cow!” is another welcome relief to the overused alternative we hear too much of in most movies these days. James Garner plays a less-than-convincing Baptist minister who obviously knows nothing about the Bible. But his spiritual ignorance is included more for defining the character than to slam Christianity. Tommy Lee Jones is the highly-competitive, Carpe Dieum sort of guy whose character is not unlike many of the roles he has played before. We rarely list movies to be recommended to other Christians, but this one will probably make our list. My Ratings: [3/3½]
—Jim and Susan Fernald, age 47
The film does not live up to the trailer. The first half of the film tries to be a humorous geriatic “Right Stuff,” full of physical exams and bathroom humor. Then the film takes a awkward mid-film turn into an Armageddon/save-the-world scenario that does not really work well. Direction and script are stilted and the film relies heavily on its all-star cast of old guys. However, Donald Southerland as the “ladies man” is really quite cute and plays the role to the hilt. Tommy Lee Jones does a fine job. Eastwood and Garner slide through without offering much. As far as the Christian perspective goes, the Baptist minister played by James Garner is not extremely offensive. But why go out of the way to script answers such as, “Why the h*ll not?,” instead of “Why not?”. Also, the Clint Eastwood character asks the Minister if he’d like to say a prayer before Shuttle lift off and the reply is trite. Not that a heavy prayer was called for in the film, but the handling of the issue was stupid, rather than offensive. Actually, that’s a good way to sum up the movie: stupid, not offensive. Wait for the video. It’ll be out in two months. My Ratings: [3/2]
—Mike Mitchell, age 47
Overall, I was impressed with this movie. Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner make this well worth the price of admission. Add in the special effects and an intriguing storyline and you’ve got a pretty good thing. I can’t completely endorse the film, especially for younger viewers because of the language. Although not overpowering, there was your fair share of s--, D--, H--, and a couple of uses of God’s name I’m sure He wouldn’t approve of. Most of it was in the type of situation where you might expect swearing, so it didn’t stand out, but it was there. Very well filmed and acted, and as I said the special effects were great. Good for teens or pre-teens and those of us a little older. I had a fun time with my 14 year old son. My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Tim Harmer, age 40
Was motivated to attend “Space Cowboys” by its preview featuring Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Don Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, James Cromwell, and a charming comdey plot. The movie delivered the preceding stars and the generally funny comedy plot. It had potential for a rather wholesome comedy, one that might have been acceptable to most Christians. But it was wrapped in unnecessary profanity, a tastless scene with Eastwood and his wife caught in an embarassing embrace, borderline mockery of established religion played by Garner, and an unrealisic portrayal of a man with pancreatic cancer. Christians may still enjoy the movie, but be prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff. My Ratings: [3½/3½]
—Dave Storhaug, age 55
Within the first half-hour I counted ten obsenities, including using the Lord’s name in vain. This was a sign of what was to come. There is brief nudity of all four main characters being viewed from behind. James Gardner’s character, a Baptist minister, is portrayed as a bafoon who cannot even find his way around the Bible and trivializes dependence upon God. The space scenes, which I understand were provided by NASA were captivating, and were the highlight of the movie. I was hoping for the whit and humor that actors of maturity can provide, and there was some, but not enough to counter the pool of profanity and mockery of the pulpit. My Ratings: [2/2]
—Mark Parent, age 36
This was an entertaining movie, one which had me chuckling several times. For parents, there was one scene where there was full back nudity of men (going through a NASA physical) and a few instances of innuendo although it was subtle. The special effects were good, the characters were colorful and the script was cute. My Ratings: [2½/3½]
—J. Swanson, age 40
It was a really good movie. It started a little slow, but even though it was slow it was really funny. The plot opened up and got dramatic towards the end of the movie. It was one of the better movies I have seen recently. It also had a touch of romance that added to everything else. I give it 2 thumbs up. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Donald, age 20
Comments from young people
This was one of the few excellent movies I have seen this summer. The movie has a great plot that keeps turning around and throwing you off guard, but not too much for you to mumble, “Well, that’s stupid” I greatly enjoyed seeing this movie even though I tend to see the action movies. I would classify this as a Drama with a good deal of cussing, but worth seeing. I would recommend this movie to everyone capable of hearing a little foul language. My Ratings: [2½/5]
—David Bonem, age 14
“Space Cowboys” is very entertaining. Good plot, likeable characters, and [thank-you Jesus] the brains to know when to be funny and when to be serious… one of the better movies this summer. Some bad language, but not much [as the reviewer stated] and really no violence. This isn’t an action movie. It’s a drama. The villain is the thing that they’re trying to save, not a person. Go see it, you’ll have fun. My Ratings: [2½/3½]
—Jason Eaken, age 16
Very good movie. It would have been a lot better, though, if it didn’t have so much cussing, or if the old guy wasn’t so much of a naughty lady’s man. Another disturbing thing was that a 55 (approx.) year old guy and a 30 (approx.) year old girl were dating. A lot of anger and hate towards each other also didn’t make it as fun. Very Funny. Not recommended by me for anyone that’s younger than 13 years old. My Ratings: [2½/4½]
—Blake Wolf, age 13
Movie Critics
…a thoroughly entertaining exercise in “Peter Pan”-like fantasy fulfillment…
—Variety
…a blast for those who don’t mind geriatric heroes…
—James Berardinelli, ReelViews
…more than 20 uses of the “s” word…
—ScreenIt!
[Garner’s character, Tank (a country preacher)] …and Christianity are portrayed favorably, but the humor sometimes borders on being disrespectful…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review