The filmmakers whose projects didn’t make it to the Sundance Film Festival must weep bitter tears when they see “The American Astronaut,” a movie that is utterly worthless, yet still made it to the festival. “They thought THIS was better than MY movie?!” they probably wail. “I made a film in which I videotaped my goldfish swimming around for 90 minutes. Isn’t that better than ‘The American Astronaut’?”
Well, yes. Yes it would be.
Taking place in the future, “The American Astronaut” is a cheerily no-budget sci-fi musical about a Han Solo-ish character named Samuel Curtis (Cory McAbee, also writer/director) who has to fetch a boy from the all-male Jupiter and take him to be the new stud on the all-female Venus. But the semi-evil Professor Hess (Rocco Sisto) is on his trail, turning people into mounds of dirt every chance he gets.
People sing on occasion, not very well, and without very good songwriting skills at their disposal. The music is a grungy rockabilly — a perfectly good genre, when it’s done well; the problem is, like every other aspect of the movie, it’s not done well. The lyrics are repetitive and stupid, and it seems like the songs were included just so McAbee could say he’d created a sci-fi musical (which, you have to admit, does get your attention).
The film’s style is retro-cheesy, shot in black and white to recall ’50s space movies. Camp is an art, though; you can just put bad actors on the screen and call it cheesy — unless you mean the bad kind of cheesy, the kind that’s boring and stupid. (This film is 91 minutes long, yet still manages to include about 20 minutes, all together, of unnecessary padding.)
Is there anything good in “The American Astronaut”? Yes. The guy on all-male Jupiter whose presence is required on Venus is called The Boy Who Actually Saw a Woman’s Breast (“It was round and soft” is all he has to tell his eager listeners on Jupiter). And at a bar in an asteroid belt, an old man tells the longest, most bizarre “Hertz Doughnut” joke you’ve ever heard, and also has a dirty non-sequitur cathphrase that I can’t repeat here.
Otherwise, it’s sheer, unadulterated pain. Let us all weep together.
F (; )