Editor’s Note: Moonwalkers opens in limited theatrical release today, January 15, 2016.
It’s 1969 and the United States government, afraid of losing the space race, has seized upon a drastic plan: to stuff a suitcase full of cash, give it to a scary CIA agent, and fly him to the UK on a mission to force director Stanley Kubrick to fake the landing of a man on the moon. But this is Moonwalkers, an allegedly wacky farce from director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, so scary CIA agent Kidman (Ron Perlman) is suffering from PTSD after serving in the Vietnam War, which is supposed to explain why he mistakes a useless band manager named Jonny (an ancient-looking Rupert Grint) for Kubrick’s agent. Jonny plays along, using his perpetually stoned friend Leon (an abysmal Robert Sheehan) as a fake Kubrick. The lie is discovered, the cash goes missing, and Kidman and Jonny find themselves begging a filmmaker-slash-cult-leader to fake the moon landing for them, lest the CIA murder them all.
The script is ferocious in its devotion to the dullest monosyllabic words in the English language, and its white-knuckled deathgrip on the most common 1960s tropes is so misguided it’s almost impressive.
The worst sin a comedy can commit is not the sin of being unfunny, but the sin of boredom. Moonwalkers doesn’t just commit this sin, it revels in it, primarily by its complete lack of understanding of the era it tries to spoof; this is a film too uninformed to realize its own ignorance. The psychedelic animated credits seem created by someone who has never heard of Milton Glaser. The script is ferocious in its devotion to the dullest monosyllabic words in the English language, and its white-knuckled deathgrip on the most common 1960s tropes is so misguided it’s almost impressive.
There are references to a host of Kubrick’s films, of course, all done by rote and without a hint of passion or appreciation. Scenes of ultra violence are wedged in at regular intervals, recalling a similar late-60s trend in British cinema, but done here without any social or cultural context behind it. Someone, somewhere sat down with a pen, paper, slide rule and protractor, watched the 1960s farces of Peter Sellers and calculated the jokes to mathematical certainty, making sure to rip all the absurdity, joy and humor from them.
But that’s okay. Everyone in Moonwalkers laughs at their own jokes, so you don’t have to. Cutting out the middleman like that is very efficient. A total time-saver.
Scenes of ultra violence are wedged in at regular intervals, recalling a similar late-60s trend in British cinema, but done here without any social or cultural context behind it.
Perlman, a veteran of the kind of television and cable-ready films that can only be described as “guilty pleasures,” is a rock-solid professional when it comes to thankless roles, but even he seems irritated by the time the requisite drug tripping scene rolls around. Grint is a complete non-entity, as are the gangsters and CIA agents, all meant to be more alike than different, of course, because that’s just good sociopolitical commentary. Less impressive is the casual use of “Fortunate Son” over a feel-good montage ending; its use is so clueless that it’s almost an offensive political message, but you know what they say about attributing to maliciousness what is, in fact, complete fucking stupidity.
The only bright spot in this damp dishrag of a film is Eric Lampaert, the hapless lead singer of the band Jonny is meant to be managing. Lampaert is strangely adorable in his role as a supporting buffoon in a cast full of such characters, and it’s impossible to not be charmed by his genial idiocy. That’s the only charm to be found in Moonwalkers, though, a dull film that can conjure up mild irritation in its audience, but little else.
Moonwalkers is a lackluster attempt at a 1960s sex spoof, and so humorless it can't even muster up any cheap laughs from silliness or slapstick.