ASTRONAUT – Review by Susan Granger

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Timely for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing, Shelagh McLeod’s debut feature revolves around a lonely widower whose dreams about being an astronaut and space travel have never faded.

After staying with his daughter Molly (Krista Bridges) and her family for a while, 79 year-old Angus (Richard Dreyfuss) has finally moved to a retirement facility, aptly named Sundown Valley. He’s struggling financially because his late wife, who was suffering from dementia, was conned into buying a donkey sanctuary.

Hanging out with his grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence) who shares his passion for gazing into the cosmos Angus discovers that there’s a national TV lottery sponsored by Marcus (Colm Feore) a billionaire entrepreneur. (Think Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos) Open to those aged 18-65, the contest winner will cop a coveted seat on the Ventura, the first civilian shuttle into space.

After fudging his age and health status on the application, Angus is stunned when he’s named as a finalist contender. Joining others on the short-list for a site visit, irascible Angus voices concern about the structural integrity of the launch. As a retired civil engineer, he firmly believes that there’s a perhaps-fatal fault in the huge spacecraft’s proposed runway.

When Marcus refuses to postpone the Ventura’s proposed launch date, tenacious Angus goes public with his safety concerns, obviously risking his interstellar ‘trip of a lifetime.’

Although British TV actor-turned-writer/director Shelagh McLeod’s glib, cliché-filled script is far too thin on background/character development, Richard Deyfuss subtly enhances his underwritten role. And his Angus is eerily reminiscent of Roy Neary, the part he played in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Astronaut” is a sentimental-but-sluggish 6. If it’s not in a theater near you, it’s also available on VOD/Digital.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.