Greetings again from the darkness. Provided you don’t subscribe to a particular conspiracy theory, it can be ripe for comedy. So unless you are one who believes Apollo 11 did not succeed, and neither Neil Armstrong nor Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon’s surface that historic day in 1969, you will probably find this wacky farce worthy of a few laughs. The first feature from director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet and writer Dean Craig (Death at a Funeral, 2007) seems to enjoy poking fun at the U.S. military, the CIA, the swinging 60’s in London, movie directors not named Kubrick, and Brits in general.
The film opens with a vivid dream of PTSD-stricken CIA agent Kidman (Ron Perlman) complete with Vietnam flashbacks and horror-movie level visions of zombies. This is followed by an opening credit sequence featuring Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam-type animation that certainly gets our hopes up for a different kind of movie experience.
Mr. Perlman’s hulking presence is kind of a recurring punchline, and he’s up for just about any gag as his character Kidman agrees to follow orders delivered by a slightly looney military officer (Jay Benedict), reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. This is fitting because Kidman’s mission is to fly to London and convince famed director Stanley Kubrick to direct a “staged” lunar landing as precaution in case Apollo 11 goes awry.
When circumstances cause his meeting with Kubrick’s agent to create a case of mistaken identity, Kidman is soon enough handing over a briefcase full of money to failed band manager Jonny (Rupert Grint) and his stoned buddy Leon (Robert Sheehan). As things progress, a mafia-type group is involved as is a trip to a drug-fueled stay at a hippie commune/castle run by a cocky movie director who took 3 years to film a fat guy bouncing on a trampoline.
Perlman is a pleasure to watch here, and Grint is working hard to shake off the clingy dust of the Harry Potter movies. Their scenes together offer plenty of laughs, but most of the scenes are hit and miss, and the film does lose some steam during the over-the-top violence and gore moments. Other Kubrick references include Lolita, A Clockwork Orange (the coffee table in Derek’s office), and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey.
For full enjoyment, one must embrace the heavy stoner-comedy mode as well as a farcical look at London in the late 1960’s. It easy to compare this to Barry Levinson’s 1997 film Wag the Dog, but in fact, it probably has more in common with Laugh-in or some of the Peter Sellers comedies of the era (minus anyone as talented as the great Sellers). And beyond that, you best not believe the United States fooled the world with a fake lunar landing. “We didn’t. Did we?”