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Family Bonds Extolled in The Astronaut Farmer

  • Lisa Rice Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jul 12, 2007
Family Bonds Extolled in <i>The Astronaut Farmer</i>

DVD Release Date:  July 10, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  February 23, 2007
Rating:  PG (for mild language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  105 min.
Director:  Michael Polish
Actors:  Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Max Thieriot,  Bruce Willis, Jasper Polish, Logan Polish, Bruce Dern, Mark Polish, Jon Gries, Tim Blake Nelson, and Sal Lopez

What would you do if you found out that your husband’s latest project was not finishing the basement or building a deck, but rather outfitting a full-sized rocket to be launched into outer space?  Starring Billy Bob Thornton as Charles Farmer, The Astronaut Farmer is such a story of chasing impossible dreams.

It turns out that Farmer does have a degree in Aerospace Engineering and he did work for NASA, but years ago some things happened that brought him back to the farm and prevented him from going into space. Ever since then, he’s been visiting the rocket ship graveyard, pulling together parts, converting his barn into a science lab and rocket launch station, and trying to order fuel—lots of fuel!

As a matter of fact, it’s because he’s trying to order 10,000 gallons of fuel online that the CIA comes into the picture. Instantly they suspect him of being a terrorist who wants to launch a WMD—Weapon of Mass Destruction.  His old astronaut buddy, “The Colonel” (Bruce Willis) even shows up and tries to feel out the situation and assess his old buddy’s sanity.  As Farmer is interviewed before a panel, he tells the government they can rest assured it’s not a WMD because if it was, they wouldn’t be able to find it!  (Love that Iraq War humor.)

Farmer will not be dissuaded by the suits. He has an amazing wife Audrey, or “Audie,” (Virginia Madsen) who’s encouraging the plan, as well as three gorgeous, fun children and a father-in-law who are 100 percent behind him.  Much to the town’s dismay, Farmer pulls his kids out of school and trains them to be astronaut assistants.  The kids adore their father and ignore the shameful stares and comments of the townspeople. 

To complicate Farmer’s life, he’s way behind on a bunch of loans, and he’s running out of time and money. He’s got to launch in a “do or die” attempt to fulfill his dream.  What follows, however, is a disaster that’s almost unrecoverable. It will take the ultimate test of character and determination if Farmer is to try—that one last time—to reach his boyhood dream and make it into space.

The Astronaut Farmer draws on the hopes, dreams, and fantasies of the child within.  Let’s be honest. Who has not dreamed of inventing something so great that it will make history?  More specifically, who hasn’t wished to fly to the moon?

The Farmer family is wonderful.  It only takes ten minutes into the movie before you’re vowing to reinstate family dinnertime around the table.  The father leads his family in some imaginative games, and there is much affection and laughter. The wife is beautifully supportive, truly a teammate in dream-building without being a total pushover.

There is one place where a terrible argument ensues and dishes are thrown—right in front of the children, and there are a couple dozen very mild obscenities, but otherwise the movie is a sweet escape for just about the whole family. 

On a technical note, the cinematography is magnificent, and the acting is commendable.  There are several places where the story drags a bit and could be tightened, but the payoff just might be worth the wait. 

Like the movie Dreamer, The Astronaut Farmer is a compelling case study on whether or not it’s really worth the risk to follow the big dreams, despite daunting odds.  More than anything, it’s an interesting peek into the dynamics and potential rewards of something we don’t often see:  a functional, loving, supportive family.  Yes, even Billy Bob Thornton has put a muzzle on for this feel-good flick and comes across as a warm, fatherly teacher and encourager.   

So, dust off that dream, grab some popcorn, and reach for the stars—literally—with the Farmer family!

AUDIENCE:  Older children and adults


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Beer portrayed frequently.
  • Language:  A couple dozen light obscenities (frequent use of “d--n” and “a--”).
  • Sex:  None.
  • Violence:  Man throws brick through window in anger, man gets hurt in crash, etc.