Director: Chris Winterbauer
Starring: Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Broke barista and college student, Walt, thought his dreams of traveling to Mars would never come true: he was rejected 37 times by the Student Mars Program and private tickets cost nearly $1 million.
That was until a trespassing cat inspired Walt to stowaway on a billionaire’s rocket ship with the expectation of hiding out in the air ducts for weeks on end.
However, what he found instead was a 35-day adventure involving identity theft, dwindling oxygen supply and most surprising of all, a love affair with fellow wealthy student Sophie Tsukino.
Chris Winterbauer’s “Moonshot” follows Sophie and Walt’s relationship, after Walt uses Sophie to stowaway on a spaceship headed to Mars in the year 2049. While each character originally goes to the Red Planet to reunite with a significant other- Sophie with long-term boyfriend Calvin and Walt with new fling Ginny- who already live there, the pair forms a close friendship and eventually falls in love as they try to keep from alerting authorities of Walt’s illicit travels.
However, where platonic chemistry succeeds in the film, romantic chemistry fails.
Sophie and Walt’s friendship develops naturally, with the pair bouncing off each other in a manner that often feels more reminiscent of siblings than lovers. There’s bickering and frustration, but also fun and delight.
What’s lacking is a sense of yearning, a feeling that Sophie and Walt are actually falling in love with one another.
All too often, the characters — played by Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse — seem to be coming to terms with themselves and who they are rather than coming to terms with their developing feelings.
Sophie struggles to outgrow her long-term relationship with Calvin, played by Mason Gooding, and the fact that his family took her in after being orphaned at the age of 14. By contrast, Walt stumbles through life, trying to succeed with his dreams of adventure, while living a life of mediocrity.
Their internal struggles evolve as the focal points of the narrative.
As such, the romance nearly becomes a secondary plot, the film acting more as a coming-of-age for the two main characters than a true love story.
That isn’t to say there aren’t moments that evoke all the perfect mushy-gushy feelings of cheesy rom-coms.
“Moonshot” does well in hitting the traditional markers of nostalgically cliché romances, from a messy meet-cute to the obligatory fake-dating trope.
Still, despite hitting all the sweet spots of a Friday night-in flick (perfect for curling up with a pint of ice cream, a cozy blanket and a few friends), the lack of romantic tension between Sophie and Walt renders these typically feet-kicking moments into something more lackluster.
Another issue with “Moonshot” comes in the form of the wavering utilization and intrigue of actual secondary plots.
At times, the movie presents its audience with compelling tidbits of information that nearly overshadow its romantic feel — from its pseudo-commentary on the environmental impact of human waste to Sophie’s own traumatic, but largely unexplored, backstory.
Then, at other times, “Moonshot” fails to provide any details or explanations of interest, such as the actual reason behind Walt’s desire to go to Mars.
While rom-coms are rarely meant to be cinematic masterpieces, they should still come across as three-dimensional pieces of work.
With that said, “Moonshot” definitely has its shining moments: Condor brings Sophie’s character to life with great sincerity, providing the perfect demeanor for a story of goofy, but also sentimental, ups and downs; Zach Braff’s billionaire Leon Kovi brings out the best of the movie’s comedy, riffing on the ultra-rich’s superficiality and insincerity; and Gary, the robot side-kick, acts with perfect condescension to provide levity in tenser moments.
All in all, while not the rom-com genre’s most compelling film, “Moonshot” proves a worthwhile watch for those looking for a shorter, more easy-going film.
Not nearly as groundbreaking as the science it features (after all, terraforming on Mars is pretty radical), “Moonshot” exists as a happy gem, perfect for casual watching.
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum. She is an English and Spanish double major and is pursuing a certificate in creative writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire and binging reality TV on the weekends.