Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Staring: Glen Powell, Milo Coy, Zachery Levi, and Jack Black
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood is the latest film from legendary director Richard Linklater. With a similar animation style to what he used with A Scanner Darkly, Linklater uses his new film to explore growing up as well as his own life in 1960s Houston, against the backdrop of the space race. It’s an understated coming-of-age story that’s so charming, you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Stanley, voiced by both Milo Coy as a child and Jack Black as an adult who is narrating the film, is a fourth grader who is chosen by NASA to undertake a secret mission. He’s going to be the first person to land on the moon, days before Apollo 11, but no one will ever know.
The film is presented in a style similar to an autobiography audiobook with Jack Black narrating. You can sit back, almost close your eyes, and be taken back in time through a nostalgic look at the end of the 1960s, specifically growing up in Houston. Stanley’s dad and most of his friends dad’s work for NASA. Jack Black does an outstanding job narrating the story, he’s completely captivating and perfectly delivers every line.
There are two parts to this film. On one side it’s about a child on an undercover mission, while on the other side it’s about childhood in the 1960s. The actual plot is farfetched and feels like the tall tale that children tell to impress their classmates, something that Stanley admits he does at one point in the film. It’s complete childhood wish fulfilment, of seeing the adults around him all focused on the upcoming moon landing and wanting to be an integral part of it. While this is the main plot, it’s not the main focus on the film, instead, that’s just Linklater capturing a snapshot in time.
Drive-in cinemas, music, talk shows, the lack of safety precautions, and prank calls make up the majority of the film. It’s just listening to the adult Stanley tell you every little memory of his childhood, while watching it also play out on screen. There’s a very loose structure to it, as the lead up to the moon landing, with it more just feeling like reminiscing and each scene just being the next thing he remembers. It’s mostly the highlights of life, with a few references to tensions at the time.
The animation is beautiful, with some great rotoscoping and a unique look. It feels almost like a children’s cartoon and is the perfect look for the film. There’s also an incredible soundtrack featuring a range of music from the era. You can feel that this is something very personal for Linklater and it really shines.
The film could be something that would be shown to a class of children to teach them about history, and it would be an excellent lesson. At the same time adults can watch this and enjoy it as a look back at the simpler time of childhood. It works on both levels and is something that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
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