Release Date: Premieres May 31, 2013 on Hallmark Channel (8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT)
Run Time: 93 minutes
Director: Sean McNamara
Cast: Josh Lucas, Mira Sorvino, Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover, Thomas Horn, Ryan Simpkins, Grayson Russell, Booboo Stewart
The American Spirit has fallen on hard times. Perhaps not so coincidentally, ditto the public perception of NASA. Oh, they're still there, still doing good things even in a post-Space Shuttle age (cf. the International Space Station), but there are questions now. Is space still relevant? Does it inspire us? Has pride in our past achievements been reduced to nostalgic nods and sarcastic quoting of Lloyd Christmas's "No way... we landed on the Moon!" from Dumb and Dumber? Is the lack of a space race leading to our shortage of engineers and mathematicians?
These are some of the questions the new film from Walden Family Theater, Space Warriors, would ask of the older portion of its intended audience (parents and grandparents). Those old enough to remember 1986's Space Camp and Apollo 13 (either the 1995 film or the actual event from 1970) will find intended parallels here.
Enter the teen heroes of Space Warriors, led earnestly by Jimmy Hawkins (Thomas Horn, the enigmatic young man from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Jimmy is the son of a former Space Station astronaut and the rare young man these days who dreams of going into orbit. He's a genius who knows his stuff, and who has won a prized entry to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama (conveniently enough, his home town) on the strength of an essay he wrote. There's just one problem: Jimmy's mom, Sally (Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino), has lost relatives - and quite possibly a marriage - to the space program, and she believes in Jimmy enough to recognize that he just might win the Space Camp competition and the prize that comes with it: a trip into space. So, she forbids him to go, and asks her ex-husband (Dermot Mulroney, About Schmidt) to back up her decision and not make her into "the bad guy." Dad agrees.
This brings us to the film's biggest Catch-22 ethically and morally. Obviously, Jimmy ends up at Space Camp. How? He deceives both parents into thinking he's with the other (apparently also forging permission forms?). And he is not the only one on his team of six studly teens from around the world (a pilot, a mechanic, a robotics expert, a rocket genius, and a computer programmer extraordinaire) who has lied to gain admission. Cheating is another topic that comes up, and while the cheater is exposed, that character's own punishment (other than missing out on an eventual trip into space) was apparently left on the editing room floor. To an extent, the film leaves it to viewers to decide and discuss whether the lessons and punishments for lying are dealt with appropriately and extensively enough in the end.
For if Jimmy Hawkins had not lied his way into Space Camp, well, believe it or not lives would have been lost. So did the end justify the means? Is Jimmy correct when he tells his mom, "Sometimes when you believe in something so strongly...," or is Sally correct when she answers, essentially, that all we have is our word and our actions to define us? Or is it Jimmy's dad, who seems to suggest all is fair so long as a teenager is willing to accept responsibility for his or her actions?
Even more lessons are to be found within the brief running time of this film. Josh Lucas (TV's The Firm) plays camp instructor Colonel Manley coolly, calmly, credibly. His performance is what binds the film and the generations within it together (all the adult actors in the film bring their A-game to their roles, something I greatly appreciated). Manley has history with Jimmy's father, and the movie puts them back working with each other and forgiving each other admirably. Manley also has to let Jimmy know that winning is not the goal at Space Camp, but that winning as a team or losing as a team is THE lesson to take home. Manley's superior is an administrator played by Danny Glover (Shooter), whose 'big speech' in the movie is out of place considering the urgency of the situation, but who nonetheless adds the important question of why American kids don't have the desire to excel at Science and Mathematics they once did, or in the numbers of their peers around the globe. On that note, it stands to this film's credit that in no way does it set a Christian worldview at odds with space exploration or a scientific education (but again, that's a wonderful post-viewing discussion point).
Space Warriors is not a "Christian film," per se, but the film does not shy away from Christianity, particularly on the soundtrack. Britt Nicole's "All This Time" makes an appearance, and as tobyMac's "Unstoppable" plays over the closing party and end credits, the lyrics, "To live is Christ, to die is gain, we're not afraid, we're not afraid" are the last words heard. Director Sean McNamara, known for his work in pre-teen television, likewise directed the faith-based film Soul Surfer.
Space Warriors works best if enjoyed multi-generationally. As such, I watched it with my 9-year-old son, who I figured would like it, and my 7-year-old daughter, who I wasn't so sure would get into it. Both loved it, have watched it again, and have been open to interesting discussions about the characters, themes, and talking points several times since.
Walden Family Theater is a series of Friday night movies on Hallmark Channel for families to enjoy together. Space Warriors premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Friday evening, May 31, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. CT.
- Language/Profanity: None
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: None
- Sex/Nudity: None. One brief, innocent kiss and hug between teens; some minor flirting;
- Violence/Crime: One team sabotages another team's project; two main characters lie their ways into space camp and face consequences when discovered
- Religion/Morals/Other: Astronauts at risk of running out of oxygen; at one point it appears rescue has arrived too late; teams at space camp are told that winning is not the point, that they are "here to learn that you win as a team, you lose as a team"; speech is delivered from a parent to a student that "sorry won't cut it this time" and "it's what we do that determines who we are"; humility is an important theme as adults must decide to forgive and not hold grudges; divorced couple works together to discipline/encourage their son; movie ends with the possibility of the couple reconciling (though this is not a major plot point nor is it certain)
Publication date: May 29, 2013