Fly Me To The Moon review: good clean American fun

Fly Me To The Moon invokes the power of nostalgia to deliver a crowd-pleasing romcom that you'll probably forget about in a week.
Fly Me To The Moon. Image: Sony Pictures/Apple TV

Conspiracy theorists rejoice! At last Hollywood has made a film exposing the truth behind the Apollo 11 moon landing and how it was all faked on an elaborate sound stage.

Just kidding. Greg Berlanti’s Fly Me To The Moon, written by Rose Gilroy, actually presents an alternate history of the great space race by asking ‘what if, in case the real lunar mission failed, NASA intended to shoot a fake moon landing as a back-up?’ In this world, we get to explore both the reality of the ‘giant leap for mankind’, and the oft-repeated fiction that it was all a set up orchestrated by a film crew.

It’s a fun concept, and Berlanti plays safely within the atomic-patterned sandbox of 60s nostalgia all while avoiding any upsetting political issues of that era.

All of that isn’t as important – or so the film tells us – as the developing romance between Scarlett Johansson’s PR exec Kelly Jones, and Channing Tatum’s NASA launch director Cole Davis. She loves to sell ideas, and has no problem adjusting the truth for the sake of good optics – whereas he is bound to truth and justice, and is just so damn straight and narrow.

Can they get their astronauts to the moon, keep the government happy, and stop compromising their values long enough to fall in love?

I mean, yes, of course they can – that’s what we’re all watching for. Fly Me To The Moon is easy romcom fare that’ll please just about any crowd, as long as you’re not looking for something intellectually meaty these school holidays.

Aim for the stars

Johansson is typically charming and her star power lights up every frame, ensuring that her slightly suspect character always delights, whether she’s being morally ‘good’ or not. Tatum, on the other hand, falls a bit short of delightful. I don’t want to blame the obvious tan lines or the boxy-looking crew cut, but something about him seems just a bit off, and not in a deliberate way.

Jim Rash, who you will recognise from his role as Dean Pelton, is also a highlight, playing the stressed-out director of the Faux-pollo 11 landing and hitting many of the same wonderful notes as he did in Community. Rash knows what’s expected from his presence and nails it perfectly.

Originally set to be directed by Jason Bateman, with Chris Evans in the Tatum role, Berlanti took over directing duties when Bateman left due to ‘creative differences’. One has to wonder if those differences were things like the film’s near-constant barrage of ‘America, fuck yeah!’ type dialogue or the lack of spice (in every sense: politically, sexually, racially …).

ScarJo’s assistant, played by the luminous Anna Garcia, often repeats how much she despises working for Richard Nixon, which is as close as the film gets to saying something politically-fanged (though it’s more like a molar grind). Otherwise it flies it pretty much straight down the middle, by showing us that the war in Vietnam is bad, women and POC should be able to work at NASA too, Russians are sneaky, fighter jets are cool, and a good American is a God-loving one.

Things could be different

Key Art From Fly Me To The Moon, Featuring Channing Tatum And Scarlett Johansson. Image: Sony Pictures
Key art from Fly Me To The Moon, featuring Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson. Image: Sony Pictures

I’m desperate to know what a more cynical approach to Fly Me To The Moon‘s narrative would look like – in other words, how would the story play out if it hadn’t been so obviously squeezed through a bunch of test screenings and board meetings? In its mission to appeal to the masses, it’s instead become rather twee and grating.

It’s also too dang long, sailing way past the usual 90-minute romcom mark and landing at 2 hours and 10 minutes. But, there’s not many moments in that runtime where you’ll get bored – especially if you’re still fascinated by the miraculous achievements of space travel (and honestly, who isn’t?).

I think there is a largely underfed appetite for mid-budget films like this at the moment, so hopefully the people that often complain about the lack of such films show up in droves for Fly Me To The Moon. It’s precisely the kind of film you watch when you have to please a family or friend group who all have different tastes and just want a night of entertainment.

Fly Me To The Moon is in cinemas from 11 July.


3 out of 5 stars

Fly Me To The Moon


Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum


Greg Berlanti

Format: Movie

Country: USA

Release: 11 July 2024

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports