is a slice of cornball Americana that's so much fun you'll be tempted to stand up and salute. Director and co-star Clint Eastwood manages to turn what might have been ludicrous into a jubilant tribute to age and experience, and Space Cowboys
succeeds as two movies in one--a comedy about retired pilots given one last shot at glory and an Apollo 13
-like thriller with all the requisite heroics. With a dream cast of Hollywood vets playing old farts described in tabloids as "The Ripe Stuff", the movie jumps from a 1958 prologue (establishing their lost bid for space travel) to 40-plus years later, when the retired Air Force aces (Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones) volunteer to rescue a falling Russian satellite that only Eastwood's character can repair.
It turns out that Russkie bird is a Cold War leftover equipped with live nuclear warheads, and the movie revs up to a rousing climax in which our heroes prove their mettle. But first the comedy: watching these codgers struggle to pass NASA's physical tests is a total hoot, with running gags about wrinkles, dentures, and oysters for sagging libidos. (Sutherland is the scene-stealer, but they're all having a blast.) Once in space, the movie gets down to business, and the visual-effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic provide stunning vistas from Earth's orbit; a shot looking down at the boot of Italy is particularly beautiful. A sub-plot involving a weasely NASA administrator (James Cromwell) is rather perfunctory, but it hardly matters. Space Cowboys earns its wings, once again demonstrating Eastwood's comfort with any genre he chooses. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
On the DVD: Even though it boasts no sub-title like "Special Edition," this DVD has some of the nicest extras you'll want to see. There's nearly an hour of behind-the-footage material, all of it superior made-for-cable featurettes so often included on DVDs. The technicians divulge little tricks of the trade, revealing more computer effects in the film than you think. Longtime Eastwood editor Joel Cox provides insight into the director's work routine. The highlight, though, is an extended version of the four principle's appearance on The Tonight Show with Leno providing some interesting comments on how he chooses what films will "appear" on his show. --Doug Thomas, Amazon.com
Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner, Clint Eastwood, Marcia Gay Harden, Donald SutherlandDirector: Clint Eastwood