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The Astronaut’s Wife (1999): The Incredible Smelting Man

The Astronaut’s Wife (Rand Ravich, 1999)

[originally posted 19Jun2000]

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Johnny Depp’s thousand yard stare remains throughout the film.

You know it’s a bad rental night when the highest hopes you have for a movie are of something that looked so utterly silly in the previews that you had no desire to see it in the theaters. Unfortunately, I got roped into this… and aside from the, uh, “climax” <snort>, it wasn’t really all that bad a movie, aside from Charlize Theron’s “as ugly as I wanna be” hairdo.

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“I told you, the script was NOT for a movie called The Astronaut’s Baby. But you wouldn’t listen, would you…?”

Johnny Depp and (how far the mighty have fallen!) Nick Cassavettes are two astronauts who go into space to make some minor repairs to a satellite, and are out of contact with Earth for two minutes while they’re on the other side of the shuttle. As a premise, this is kind of boring; I didn’t realize this wasn’t a common occurrence on shuttle missions. But, of course, something nasty happens, and the two come back to earth in comas. Pretty soon Cassavettes and his wife (engagingly played by Donna Murphy), the best of couples, are having marital problems, and Depp and his wife (Theron) are close behind. Feel free to draw all conclusions you need to—and you’re right. I don’t need to spoil it, you can do it yourselves well enough, I’ve no doubt.

The good stuff here, aside from a decent performance by Depp, is in the minor roles. Samatha Eggar pops up as Theron’s ob-gyn (and those of you familiar with Eggar’s most famous role will know why the irony of this was so delicious), and Clea DuVall, as Theron’s wisecracking sister, absolutely saved the first half of this movie (note for Joy Fielding fans: DuVall is listed in the cast of the upcoming See Jane Run).

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“If you look very closely in that reflection, you should be able to see a boom mic.”

Unfortunately, these things aren’t enough to hold it all together, and as the plot slowly disintegrates (and this is another case of “great premise, bad execution”) the whole thing becomes laughable; by the time we get around to seeing the bad guy, we don’t care how stupid he is. He can’t be any worse than the situation he’s been placed in. * ½ solely for Eggar and DuVall.



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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