Movie Review: ‘Spaceman’

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Greetings again from the darkness. Have you hugged a spider today? Adam Sandler has. Well, technically it’s his character who does the hugging. Jakub Prochazka, is a Czech astronaut 189 days into his year long mission. He’s flying solo on “the outskirts of Jupiter” to explore the Chopra cloud which is expected to reveal the beginning of time. Honestly, it feels like a job worthy of more than one man, however, that’s what the source material provides. Based on the 2017 book “Spaceman of Bohemia” by Jaroslav Kalfar, Johan Renck directs the adapted screenplay by Colby Day. Mr. Renck is not one that jumps to mind when thinking of an Adam Sandler movie. His previous credits include the excellent mini-series “Chernobyl”, as well as multiple episodes of acclaimed series, “Breaking Bad” and “Bloodline”.

The reality is that Adam Sandler is a solid dramatic actor, as evidenced by his roles in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002), and more recently, THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (2017) and UNCUT GEMS (2019). In fact, many of us much prefer heavy-drama Sandler to goofy-comedy Sandler. In this latest, he goes low-key extreme. In fact, Jakub is rapidly sinking into depression, though it has little to do with the loneliness and solitude of space. That’s right … it’s a woman. His pregnant wife, Lenka (the always stellar Carey Mulligan) is missing and won’t communicate with her galactic husband. We know what’s going on with her, but the mission Commander (Isabella Rossellini) refuses to tell Jakub due to his fragile mental state. On top of that, his deteriorating spacecraft is preventing him from sleeping properly.

Soon, that rickety old space toilet is the least of Jakub’s worries. He’s sharing the claustrophobic space with a giant talking spider. Jakub is unsure if this is a figment of his imagination or some alien creature. Passively voiced by Paul Dano, Hanus the arachnid initially appears to be a manifestation of Jakub’s subconscious, but as time goes on, it appears he’s a creature with knowledge of the universe. The low-key vocals from Jakub and Hanus don’t generate much excitement for us viewers, but the therapy Hanus provides, allows Jakub to better understand himself … and also drives Hanus to binge eat. There are no Sandler tantrums or screaming moments … instead his sad eyes and droopy face tell us much about Jakub.

Hanus calls Jakub “skinny human” so many times, it feels like that should be the film’s title. It gets old pretty quickly. Other supporting work comes from Kunal Nayyar as Jakub’s virtual doc, and Lena Olin as Lenka’s mother, although the film struggles to give anyone beyond Jakub much definition (including the underutilized Mulligan). It’s a bit baffling to look at this cast and associate them with the Czech Republic space program, but it’s Hollywood, where the 20-year age cap between Sandler and Mulligan also matters little. The film spent almost three years in post-production for reasons I don’t know, but it’s safe to say it’s one of the better talking spider movies you’ll see, yet not one of the finest lonely astronaut flicks.

Begins streaming on Netflix on March 1, 2024

David Ferguson
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