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Fly Me to the Moon movie review: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum lead space race romcom

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3.5/5 stars

Set during the 1960s space race, Fly Me to the Moon is a breezy romantic comedy that taps into the mythology surrounding the 1969 moon landing.

Scarlett Johansson plays Kelly Jones, a go-getting advertising executive with a slightly chequered past. One day, she is accosted by Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson), a government operative looking to recruit her to promote Nasa’s man-on-the-moon mission to politicians and the public.

Before she arrives at Nasa, Jones crosses paths with Apollo 11’s launch director, Cole Davis (Channing Tatum), “the best pilot who will never get to space”.

It is his job to make sure Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins complete their mission safely. But he immediately bristles at Jones’ trickery, not least her use of actors pretending to be Nasa staff in media interviews.

Like a female version of Mad Men’s Don Draper, Jones knows exactly how to sell the mission to keep the money rolling in so Nasa beats the Russians to the moon.
“When I’m done helping, these men are gonna be bigger than The Beatles,” she says – and she means it.

But then comes the real test, as Berkus engages her in Project Artemis, a secret scheme to film a fake moon landing in case the real one goes belly up.

(From left) Channing Tatum as launch director Cole Davis, Woody Harrelson as government operative Moe Berkus and Scarlett Johansson as advertising executive Kelly Jones in a still from Fly Me to the Moon.

Touching on the long-held conspiracy theory that Stanley Kubrick was involved in faking the event (the director gets name-checked more than once), Fly Me to the Moon counts down to the big day in July 1969 well enough.

Less successful is the on-off attraction between Jones and Davis, who is taking her for a spin in his plane one minute, then chiding her for her duplicitous nature the next minute. Their coupling never really seems in doubt, despite the friction.

Director Greg Berlanti, known for his work on American television shows such as Dawson’s Creek, has conjured up romcoms before, including films such as The Broken Hearts Club, but this feels a little too slick to be truly enchanting.

Channing Tatum as Cole Davis and Scarlett Johansson as Kelly Jones in a still from Fly Me to the Moon.

Elements of the story – including one about a pesky black cat – are telegraphed in such a way that even a child could see what is coming. But Johansson and Tatum are polished, easy-on-the-eye actors and Harrelson plays the de facto villain well.

Moreover, with a script that explores the idea that the space race was more a battle of ideologies than the triumph of man, it has enough charms to rocket past its flaws.

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