Review: Linklater charmingly chronicles life in 1969 Houston

Mar 30, 2022, 8:32 AM | Updated: 9:01 am
This image released by Netflix shows the character Stan, voiced by Milo Coy, in the animated film "...

This image released by Netflix shows the character Stan, voiced by Milo Coy, in the animated film "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood." (Netflix via AP)

(Netflix via AP)

The geniuses at NASA accidentally build the lunar module a little too small for an adult in “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood.” In Richard Linklater’s first foray into animation since “A Scanner Darkly,” a few fast-talking NASA men (Glen Powell and Zachary Levi) recruit an average local elementary school student, Stan, to test it out for them on a top secret mission to the Moon. It’s the kind of thing kids have been dreaming about for over 50 years.

Memory is a funny thing, of course, and no one fantasizes as freely as a kid. For this imaginative spirit living in the Houston area in the late 1960s near NASA at its heyday was like “being where science fiction was coming to life. The optimistic, technological future was now and we were at the absolute center of everything new and better,” he says.

It should be said that our narrator Stan (Milo Coy voices him as a kid, Jack Black as an adult) is a bit of a fabulist. Not that it matters, “Apollo 10½” is only sort of about Stan’s fantastical trip to the Moon before Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins took off in Apollo 11. It is a breezy nostalgia-fest, in rotoscope, about a very specific childhood in a very specific place with an adult narrator telling us the story of his childhood. His siblings teased him for not being in many family photos because, as he says, at that point his family had given up on documenting every move of their children.

And it is not dissimilar to retrospective coming-of-age larks like “Stand by Me,” “Now and Then” and “The Wonder Years,” with its earnest, wry observations. Stan takes us through daily life as a 10-year-old in 1969 as the youngest of six children in a neighborhood where it seemed like everyone worked for NASA in some capacity, though he can’t help but wish that his dad had a position that took him to space, not an office.

Linklater is almost too good at making you wistful for times you were never part of. And even so, there is universality in Stan’s life in the sandwiches they would make on Sunday and unfreeze throughout the week for school lunches, the myriad ways his mother would use a ham for a weeks’ worth of dinners, or memories about seeing “The Sound of Music” multiple times a week for at least a few years straight.

Stan explains he was part of the last of the “duck-and-cover” generation, though hardly the last to fear that there would be no future at all.

There’s a paradox to living in a time that worships the future while also predicting the end. As if kids don’t have enough anxiety already.

And for Stan this is manifested in a strange reality where the space race seemed to permeate the most mundane aspects of daily life, from the wire rockets on their playgrounds and the desperation to give everything — even advertisements in the newspaper — a connection to the astronauts.

There may be a little bit of projection going on in regards to Stan’s immediate appreciation of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” He’s either the coolest 10-year-old film scholar out there or this is also a riff on our fallible memories. Who’s to say Stan (and Linklater) didn’t really get the famous white room? There’s also the unshakable feeling that we’ve seen this all before. We kind of have: 1969 is not exactly an undocumented time, especially for a middle class white family and this doesn’t push many boundaries.

And yet as with most Linklater joints, it’s so sincere and so sweetly true that you can’t really fault it for not reinventing the wheel. Just like a story that your parents have told or maybe you’ve told a million times before, it’s comforting. So put that ham casserole on the stove, pull up a chair and enjoy hearing one more time about how someone who grew up with a black and white television set never knew Oz was in color.

“Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood,” a Netflix release streaming Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for some suggestive material, injury images, and smoking.” Running time: 98 minutes. Three stars out of four.

MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              This image released by Netflix shows characters Bostick, voiced by Glen Powell, left, and Kranz, voiced by Zachary Levi in a scene from the animated film "Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood." (Netflix via AP)


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
3 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
11 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
11 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
18 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
18 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Review: Linklater charmingly chronicles life in 1969 Houston