A blonde woman sits on the floor, her right profile to the camera, she holds a planetary mobile.

Film Review: Space Cadet

Film Reviews

Space Cadet
Director: Liz W. Garcia
Stampede Ventures
Streaming on Prime Video 07.04

If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your air-conditioned home this Fourth of July, you may be looking for something you can do indoors to make it feel like an event, such as streaming a brand-new movie release. That’s exactly what Prime Video is hoping you’ll decide to do with Space Cadet.

As a child, Tiffany “Rex” Simpson (Emma Roberts, We’re The Millers, Holidate) always dreamt of traveling to space, but her life didn’t go as planned, and at age 28, she’s a college dropout working as a bartender in Florida. In a moment of clarity and regret, she resolves to correct her course and get her life headed back in the right direction. She applies to become an astronaut, begging NASA to consider her despite her lack of qualifications. Before the application gets in the right hands, Rex’s well-meaning best friend Nadine (Poppy Liu, Dead Ringers American Born Chinese, Dead Ringers) decides to add some embellishments to Rex’s resume, unexpectedly landing Rex a spot in NASA‘s astronaut training program. As Rex works hard to rise to the top of her class, the NASA program directors, Dr. Pam Proctor (Gabrielle Union, Bad Boys II, The Inspection) and Dr. Logan O’Leary (Tom Hopper, Game of Thrones, The Umbrella Academy) start to take notice, especially Logan, whose interest in Rex may be more than purely a professional one. As candidates for the space program start to get eliminated, Rex must face the question of whether she can continue the deception in order to realize her dream.

Space Cadet is the kind of light comedy that, when it works, is more about being pleasantly cute than truly funny. It’s divertingly silly and full of goofy-yet-good-looking people, and you certainly don’t have to worry about too much strain on your brain with this one. Any space adventure or science element can’t be taken remotely seriously, and the comedy is strained at times. The recurring gag of the astronaut Candidates being designated as “Ascans”— pronounced “ass cans”—s relatively funny the first time we hear it, yet writer-director Liz W. Garcia (The Lifeguard) backs herself into a situation where it’s repeated so many times that it becomes quite irritating. Garcia’s direction is serviceable and shows a certain knack for comic timing and pacing, if not much skill with creating interesting visuals. The space effects are subpar and betray the film’s meager budget, and while they are tolerable for streaming, they quite effectively demonstrate why Space Cadet doesn’t warrant a theatrical release. 

Roberts is a magnetic presence who has made worse romcoms than this one watchable enough, and Rex is easy enough to root for with her in the role. Kuhoo Verma (The Big Sick, Plan B) is delightful as is Violet Marie Vislawski, Rex’s neurotic roomate, and Space Cadet is at its best when it’s focused on being a buddy comedy. Hopper is not without a certain degree of charm as the love interest, though neither the character nor the performance find enough enough life to make an argument for wanting to see more. Liu does solid supporting work as the brash BFF, and a severely underused Union has a couple of comic moments that she turns into highlights. Dave Foley (NewsRadio, A Bug’s Life) brings his patented deadpan delivery to the role of Rudolph Bolton, the head of NASA, and Sam Robards (American Beauty, A.I. Articifical Intelligence) is memorable as Rex’s father, Calvin.

Space Cadet is little more than Legally Blonde mixed with the Police Academy-style misfits comedies of the ‘80s, and taken on those terms and with realistic expectations, it’s not a bad way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you’re a Roberts fan. I’m not embarrassed to say that I enjoyed it overall, though if you go into it wanting or expecting anything more than a  disposable movie, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. Unlike its determined protagonist who reaches for the stars, Space Cadet is perfectly content to be an acceptably amusing junk food movie and never try for anything more. – Patrick Gibbs

Read More of the Prolific Patrick Gibbs here:
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