It’s good to see Richard Dreyfuss, who’ll be forever enshrined in moviegoers’ hearts for his 1970s-era heyday (“American Graffiti,” “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Goodbye Girl”), in a feature lead again. Too bad his chosen vehicle is one as creaky and wispy as “Astronaut,” a sluggish drama about aging and holding onto your dreams.
First-time feature writer-director Shelagh McLeod has concocted a fanciful tale involving one Angus Stewart (Dreyfuss, playing and appearing much beyond his 71 years), a recent widower and former civil engineer, who fraudulently enters a heavily promoted contest to take the first commercial space flight (his application age-fudging is ridiculous). Angus becomes a finalist, only to find himself betrayed by his ailing body and, at the same time, immersed in some unconvincing technological deceit that causes him to battle the space program’s haughty creator (Colm Feore).
McLeod means well in her attempt to portray society’s undervaluing of the elderly. But she’s packed the film with so many familiar tropes — loopily lively retirement home folks, fretting daughter (Krista Bridges), impatient son-in-law (Lyriq Bent), adoringly pie-in-the-sky grandson (Richie Lawrence), shadowy corporate types — that, when added to Angus’ predictable health trajectory, patchy storytelling and budget-conscious visuals, keep this sentimental journey far more earthbound than intended. Better to revisit “Cocoon” or “Space Cowboys” instead.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Playing: Starts July 26, AMC Universal CityWalk Stadium 19; also on VOD