A famously crackpot conspiracy theory, psychedelic humor and arty ultraviolence make for dreary bedfellows in the scattershot British comedy “Moonwalkers,” set in swinging 1969 London. Ron Perlman plays Kidman, a grizzled, volatile American special-ops agent scarred by ‘Nam flashbacks, who’s tasked by a brash general to hire Stanley Kubrick, then a hot commodity due to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” to film a fake moon landing in case the just-launched Apollo 11 goes bust.
But Kidman mistakes craven, inept rock manager Jonny (Rupert Grint) for Kubrick’s manager, and Jonny’s perpetually high roommate Leon (Robert Sheehan) for Kubrick himself. This leads to a bloody mix-up with London gangsters, dopey rock wannabes, topless girls and the hedonistic hippie lifestyle of a preening, mansion-ensconced experimental filmmaker hired to complete the job. Director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, who devised the story, is dazzled by period style and puerile jokes, but nothing lands as especially funny, merely tired.
Perlman’s deadpan menace as a tough Yank navigating squishy English types carries a certain ramshackle fish-out-of-water charm, but the central comedic principle here is broad, stoned, dumb and gory, with the occasional Kubrick movie in-joke to keep cineastes awake. Elegantly nasty shootouts and lavishly realized drug trips have long been signs of pop-visual tiredness, and “Moonwalkers” is no exception.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence, graphic nudity, plentiful drug use and language
Playing: In limited release