Usually, when a film has a really great premise that it can’t quite live up to, you wind up disliking said film. Interestingly though, in the case of Moonwalkers, the somewhat missed opportunity for a really great comedy just winds up leaving us with a solid one instead. Honestly, it would be hard to totally bungle the premise, centering on the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was faked, done as a secret film production. The style on display, be it of the period or the various instances of violence, are all done with a welcome flair by director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet. Honestly, without some of the flourishes here, in particular how jarring the violent acts are when they come, this probably would have felt too garden variety to recommend. As it stands now, this is still a very mild recommendation, but it’s one that I’m making nonetheless. Moonwalkers is a small scale films, but one that manages to succeed more than it fails. Is it a modern classic? No, not even close. That being said, if you like movies about movies/moviemaking, this is an interesting spin on that sub genre. The flick will definitely not be blowing anyone away, but if you like a farcical comedy based somewhat on fact (or at least an urban legend, in this case), you could do a lot worse than Moonwalkers.
The film gives credence to the preposterous notion that NASA had the moon landing faked, while always acknowledging the lunacy of it all. Here, they take the well worn tall tale that filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was behind it and spin that off in a new direction. The head honchos at NASA, unsure that the astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission will succeed in landing/walking on the moon, have CIA agent Kidman (Ron Perlman) head to the United Kingdom in order to hire Kubrick. That’s the first of many mistakes to be made by folks here, as Kidman is suffering from a Vietnam inflicted case of PTSD and is, to put it gently, unstable. He doesn’t find him, but instead finds a down on his luck rock band manager named Johnny (Rupert Grint), who poses as Kubrick’s manager. Johnny has Leon (Robert Sheehan) stand in as the filmmaker, and it initially works, though soon Kidman finds out, leading to the first of many violent encounters, both inflicted by Kidman and on Johnny by some sketchy individuals he owes money to. Essentially, it works out that Kidman needs Johnny to help stage this fakery before the US government finds out what a disaster this all is, so they go to mostly amusing lengths to make this happen well below the radar. Moonwalkers doesn’t do enough with the premise, as previously mentioned, but they do enough to make it work.
One of the reasons that Moonwalkers works is that Ron Perlman is perfectly cast. He looks the part of a CIA agent out of place in hippy England, disgusted by basically all he sees. It’s a straight man role, for the most part, and Perlman nails it. He rarely gets roles this big anymore, so I was thrilled to see him here. Rupert Grint continues to try to break away from his days in the Harry Potter franchise, and while he’s kind of bland here, it does the trick. Essentially a poor man’s Domhnall Gleeson, Grint is serviceable as a well meaning buffoon, if not exceptional. No one else really did much for me here, be it the aforementioned Robert Sheehan or other cast members like Tom Audenaert, Jay Benedict, Kevin Bishop, Stephen Campbell Moore, Eric Lampaert, Erika Sainte, and more. For me, it really was all about Perlman, with everyone else fading into the background.
Director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet manages to elevate the somewhat garden variety script by Dean Craig and make Moonwalkers occasionally a visual treat. From the trip opening credits to some of Perlman’s delusions to the set where the landing fakery is shot, it all has a welcome style from Bardou-Jacquet. It’s needed too, as Craig isn’t able to do what he did with the original Death at a Funeral, which is to take a compelling premise and run with it. Things are kind of static here too often, though some slapstick comes into play here and there. It’s compelling enough, but with a better screenplay, this really could have been something.
Overall, Moonwalkers is a nice little diversion that actually manages to end on a really interesting note. The opening credits, the performance from Perlman, and the ending help to push this from the two and a half star land to the meadows of the three star recommendation. Trust me when I say that there are better options in theaters now, but there are much worse ones as well. Taken as an indie January release, it just manages to pass muster. Moonwalkers won’t blow you away, but it should manage to sufficiently entertain you for a little over 90 minutes…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!