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'Spaceman' review: Sandler stars in so-so film for grown-ups about inner journey

Mark Meszoros, The News-Herald, Willoughby, Ohio on

Published in Entertainment News

You may not know it from the title or the vaguely cartoonish logo bearing that title, but "Spaceman" is not just another Adam Sandler-Netflix movie.

Unlike the comedic live-action and animated romps the actor and producer has churned out as part of the multiple-times-extended movie-making deal between his Happy Madison Productions and the streaming giant, this is a drama with Sandler front and center trying to make one giant leap for mankind and boldly going where no man has gone before.

But while "Spaceman" sees Sandler's character travel deep into the solar system on a solo mission, this story is primarily one of an introspective journey, as the protagonist worries the marriage he left on Earth is failing and works through choices he's made with the help of an unusual new friend.

It's always interesting to see Sandler take on the occasional drama, the "Saturday Night Live" alum giving strong performances in, for example, the well-received "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002) and "Uncut Gems" (2019). Sorry to say he's not as good here, the actor never seeming to find a groove with the character of lonely Czech cosmonaut Jakub Prochazka.

Still, it is a little surprising — and very disappointing — that "Spaceman" is rarely more than borderline-engaging given it's directed by Johan Renck. Best known for helming episodes of television shows, including a handful of "Breaking Bad" installments, he most notably directed every chapter of the acclaimed 2019 limited series "Chernobyl."

"Spaceman" is not on that level.

 

After a brief sequence in which we watch Jakub walk through a small river while wearing his spacesuit, we are formally introduced to him as he is nearing Jupiter. Near the giant planet resides what's been dubbed the Chopra Cloud, a visually striking phenomenon in space that poses a threat to Earth.

"I wish you could see it the way I do," he says during a broadcast back home before expressing excitement about soon venturing inside it and learning more about the mysterious particles that comprise it. "We still don't know what they are or where they come from, but as I enter the Chopra Cloud, I might just unravel some mysteries of the universe."

During this chance for folks to interact with him, a young girl asks Jakub if he's lonely, noting that he's been referred to as "the loneliest man in the world." He assures her that he is not that, that he talks every day with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), who is carrying their child.

In truth, not only is Jakub lonely, but he's also not sleeping well, thanks at least in part to a malfunctioning toilet making constant noise. One night, he dreams of a small alien entity literally getting under his skin and crawling around under his face.

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(c)2024 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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