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Movie review: ‘Spaceman’ showcases Adam Sandler’s gravity

February 23rd, 2024

Adam Sandler is the “Spaceman.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

LOS ANGELES,Feb. 22 (UPI) — Spaceman, in theaters Friday, is Adam Sandler’s latest foray into more dramatic work. While not as intense as Uncut Gems or inspirational as Hustle, it is a solid philosophical science-fiction tale.

Jakub Prochazka (Sandler) is on a solo mission to Jupiter on behalf of the Czech space organization. Having not received communication from his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), in some time is beginning to weigh on Jakub.

In reality, Commissioner Tuma (Isabella Rossellini) has intercepted a video message from Lenka she fears may be too upsetting for Jakub to hear. Jakub’s liaison Peter (Kunal Nayyar) is also under orders to cover up the lack of contact with Lenka.

Spaceman uses science-fiction to explore the rifts in Jakub and Lenka’s marriage. But, first, it creates a believable space flight.

The camera spins through Jakub’s craft as he floats weightlessly through the corridors. Colby Day’s adaptation of Jaroslav Kalfar’s book, Spaceman of Bohemia, also includes sly satire of the burdens of corporate sponsorship for space flight.

Adam Sandler plays an astronaut in "Spaceman." Photo courtesy of NetflixAdam Sandler plays an astronaut in "Spaceman." Photo courtesy of Netflix

Adam Sandler plays an astronaut in “Spaceman.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

Jakub has someone to talk to in space, though. An alien spider he names Hanus (voice of Paul Dano) visits, having fled his own dying planet.

Hanus wants to learn about humans and studying Jakub and Lenka gives him a lot of data. Hanus forces Jakub to realize his distance from Lenka was already growing back on Earth.

Carey Mulligan plays Lenka in "Spaceman." Photo courtesy of NetflixCarey Mulligan plays Lenka in "Spaceman." Photo courtesy of Netflix

Carey Mulligan plays Lenka in “Spaceman.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

For all the space travel and inclusion of an alien creature, Spaceman is really about good old selfishness and denial.

Where the portrayal of space was cinematographically elegant, director Johan Renck presents Jakub’s memories as a distorted kaleidoscope, as our unreliable brains often make them.

Hanus visits the "Spaceman" on his mission. Photo courtesy of NetflixHanus visits the "Spaceman" on his mission. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Hanus visits the “Spaceman” on his mission. Photo courtesy of Netflix

As a dramatic performance, Sandler plays Jakub as a guy who denies feelings, his own and others’, even to himself. Even when Jakub breaks down, he’s only a little bit more emotional, as acknowledging feelings at all is new to him.

Mulligan, of course, portrays Lenka as an emotional powerhouse. Lenka is a fully formed woman whose presence on Earth makes an impact while watching Jakub in space.

Jakub Prochazka (Adam Sandler) is on a mission to Jupiter. Photo courtesy of NetflixJakub Prochazka (Adam Sandler) is on a mission to Jupiter. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Jakub Prochazka (Adam Sandler) is on a mission to Jupiter. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Like 2001 or Interstellar, Spaceman climaxes with a more emotional, surreal sequence. That’s the fiction part of the science-fiction equation and it leaves the film open to interpretation.

Spending two hours alone with a distant workaholic can be a daunting mission for viewers, too. It does get through to Jakub making it a worthwhile character study with some cinematic trappings.

Spaceman will stream on Netflix March 1.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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