Moonshot premieres Thursday, March 31 on HBO Max.
It’s too bad Moonshot didn’t come out a month ago, during the closest thing we have to an official “rom-com season,” as it’s a sly and witty “enemies-to-more” comedy that nicely blends genre tropes with sci-fi snark. Starring Riverdale/Zack & Cody’s Cole Sprouse and Deadly Class‘ Lana Condor, Moonshot, which is mostly set aboard a transport spaceship to Mars (no, not the moon), is peacefully sweet while also infused with a light subversive edge.
The charisma of the two leads counts for a lot, as does the late-stage use of Zach Braff as the story’s future billionaire space magnate — who normally would be used as a plot device to impart words of wisdom but here is played as a obtuse narcissist — helping Moonshot tick upwards. The moments when this story zigs instead of zags, and also actually provides some laugh-out-loud lines, make for a cozy at-home watch featuring young pretty things (Scream‘s Mason Gooding and Fear Street‘s Emily Rudd also star) making eyes at each other among the stars.
Moonshot isn’t all left turns, though. It still very much adheres to the genre’s trappings and delivers the comfort food you’d expect. Sprouse’s Walt is an unfocused fly-by-the-seat-of-his pants guy while Condor’s Sophie is the anxious plan-oriented type, and while it’s not the best look to have an extraordinary woman fall for a supremely average dude (Walt’s mediocrity is a humorous running joke), the movie still has the good sense to have him be the one to want to follow and support her.
For most of his life, Walt has only had eyes for Mars, idolizing space explorer Leon Kovi (Braff, being delightfully dickish), while also getting rejected from Kovi’s Mars project dozens of times due to his severe lack of skill in any and every necessary science. Sophie is a genius in her field and the two mix like oil and water at first, yet both make huge impulsive decisions to head to Mars for love. For Sophie, it’s to see her long long-distance boyfriend Calvin (Gooding) and for Walt, it’s to keep in touch with (ostensibly) the first girl to ever show him any interest (Rudd).
Moonshot is smart enough to never villainize the other love interests and instead actually makes them feel like good fits for Walt and Sophie at the outset, so much so that you might not even want Walt and Sophie to fall in love at first; you just want them to be with their respective partners/objects of affection. The entire middle part of the story is just the two of them trying to not get in trouble after Walt sneaks aboard the Mars craft. He doesn’t want to get arrested and she doesn’t want to get caught with a stowaway. The love element here sneaks up on you, in a good way, as it becomes clearer that their actual reasons for going to Mars aren’t really what they think they are.
It plays it satisfyingly safe with the love story while mixing in a bit of bite with the sci-fi elements.
You don’t usually get rom-coms with, like, actual special effects budgets, so kudos to Moonshot for putting its sci-fi foot forward. This story could have been told in any other setting, for sure, but staging it all in a bizarre, almost WALL-E-esque trashland future gives us something new to chew on and opens up a nice door to the movie’s best zingers (which dabble in dark humor about humanity at points). Moonshot has fun with A.I. companions and various bleak prospects for Earth in a way that adds spice to the by-the-numbers notes — a bit of old and new. Moonshot isn’t exploring new ground, per se, and gives you what you expect from a romantic comedy, but its two leads and the overall fun had with the space backdrop creates a sugary, satisfying tale.
Author: Matt Fowler. [Source Link (*), IGN All]