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SPACE CADET

I Prime Video Canada I July 4, 2024 I 110 mins. I

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36%

* As of 7/5/24

Starring: Emma Roberts, Tom Hopper, Poppy Liu and Gabrielle Union, Kuhoo Verma, Desi Lydic, Sebastián Yatra, Yasha Jackson, Andrew Call, Troy Iwata, Josephine Huang, Dave Foley, Sam Robards

Directed By: Liz W. Garcia

Tiffany “Rex” Simpson (Emma Roberts) has always dreamed of going to space, but life isn’t going quite as planned. Determined to turn things around, she aims high and with the embellishing touch of her supportive best friend Nadine (Poppy Liu), her “doctored” application lands her in NASA’s ultra-competitive astronaut training program. In over her head, Rex relies on her quick wits, moxie and determination to get to the top of her class. NASA program directors Pam (Gabrielle Union) and Logan (Tom Hopper) certainly take notice, but can this Florida girl get through training and into the cosmos before she blows her cover? Written and directed by Liz W. Garcia (“Purple Hearts,” “The Sinner”), Space Cadet is a comedy about the power of being yourself, following your dreams and shooting for the stars.

REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus - 7/5/24

RATING 3 out of 5

Space Cadet does not break new ground by any means, but with a charming cast and the story’s heart in the right, the film is able to overcome its narrative shortcomings to create an enjoyable enough one time watch if you are a fan of Emma Roberts.

 

From the name alone, you know that Space Cadet is a streaming film through and through. With a girl power energy, there is something fun about this film even if it feels ever so familiar thanks to a good cast led by Emma Roberts and featuring Gabrielle Union and Tom Hopper. It’s never going to be a revolutionary hit, or even a film that audiences are talking about even a month from now, but even despite its narrative shortcomings, by the time that Space Cadet enters its second half, the story’s true heart emerges and it is enough to win audiences over and create a fun little streaming film.

 

When it comes to the story of Space Cadet, we are not exactly breaking new ground. A white lie, following a dream, and a personality against the norm in an established industry; these are just some of the ideas at play in the film. There is a Legally Blonde element to the film, with Rex being the Elle Woods to her class of astronauts, albeit never as iconic as Elle Woods though, and you can see the predictable plot play out as Rex is able to teach something the rest of her highly trained and qualified co-candidates do not have a grasp on. Never for a second is the film’s heart in the wrong spot, telling this story of a young woman who rises to the occasion, defeats expectations placed on her by society, and ends up saving the day (even if it strangely is compared to wrestling an alligator), but it feels repetitive of far greater films. Rex’s romance with Logan is rushed and severely underdeveloped, the jokes feel tired and the majority of them don’t stick the landing in the first act, and the screenplay itself feels cumbersome. Luckily when the film taps into its heart in the second and sweetens what was a sourer first act, ultimately course correcting the film and making it a decent enough watch. And it doesn’t hurt that this turn of events is started by your classic rom-com karaoke moment that Hooper and Roberts fully lose themselves in. It never truly becomes a bad film, though it does straddle that line at times, but you can’t help the fact that the entire time you will spend watching Space Cadet, similar and better films will pop into your mind and you will want to watch those instead.

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Even though they are not set up with the best script, the cast truly does try their best to make this film entertaining. Roberts is a great fit for Rex, easily becoming the party girl with a dream, bringing determination as she tries to make it through NASA’s astronaut training program. There is a natural sweetness to Roberts that makes her likable to viewers yet annoying to her fellow astronaut candidates, but with her heart of gold, she eventually melts everyone’s hearts. Hopper is charming and adorkable as Logan O’Leary, easily encapsulating the whiz in charge of the NASA training program while finding humanity as he begins to develop feelings for Rex. There are not nearly enough moments between Rex and Logan to make their romantic arc believable, but Hopper and Roberts give it their all and make the few moments they do have count. Poppy Liu creates some decent laughs as Rex’s best friend Nadine that got Rex into this mess and creates multiple identities to help to keep the charade alive. But sadly, the rest of the cast is not given the proper amount of screen time to shine. Union starts off strong as Pam, but the screenplay forgets to use her after the first act; Desi Lydic lacks any character development which makes her character rather generic as you have no reason to ever begin to care for Stacy or dislike her despite the fact that she is just flat out rude, while Kuhoo Verma, Andrew Call, Yasha Jackson and Josephine Huang bring big personalities to their supporting characters but are not for a second given the focus to truly allow Rex’s cohort to become the lovable side characters their performances are striving for. There are no weak performances from the cast, it’s just too bad that they aren’t supported and allowed to soar with the screenplay they are left to work with.


Audience’s enjoyment of Space Cadet is going to hinge on two factors: their appreciation of the cast and whether they can be moved by the underlying themes and heart of the story. Even though you have probably seen a similar story to Space Cadet’s play out before, and in far more memorable films to say the least, with a cast that includes Emma Roberts, Tom Hopper and Gabrielle Union, it’s easy enough to look past the film’s shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is. With a dedicated cast that pours their heart and soul into their characters, notably Emma Roberts, Tom Hopper and Andrew Call, and good intentions with its themes and messaging, Space Cadet manages to take off (albeit later than one would hope) and makes for brief escape with a cute story that is out of this world.

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