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Scarlett Johansson Adds Star Power to ‘Fly Me to the Moon’

Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum are keeping a close watch on the filming of “Fly Me to the Moon,” an Apple TV+ production. Unlike many recent films, it’s hitting theaters first, distributed through Sony’s Columbia Pictures, with no streaming date announced yet.

“Fly Me to the Moon,” directed by Greg Berlanti, an experienced television director known for films like “Love, Simon” and “Life as We Know It,” draws stylistic and tonal inspiration from Peyton Reed’s “Down With Love.” The story, scripted by Rose Gilroy and conceptualized by Bill Kirstein and Keenan Flynn, carries a lighthearted, breezy vibe with a pleasing screwball energy. Scarlett Johansson shines as Kelly Jones, a shrewd and self-made marketing savant brought in to sell the mission to the moon. Johansson’s character, a female Don Draper without the melancholy and romantic entanglements but carrying some secret baggage, charms and persuades anyone she meets.

The narrative sets a spark between Johansson’s Kelly and Channing Tatum’s Cole Davis, a straight-laced NASA launch director and Korean War veteran. However, while Tatum’s portrayal makes Cole likable, it removes much of the dramatic tension, turning any potential stakes into a “when-will-they” instead of a “will-they-won’t-they,” making storytelling less compelling over the film’s two-hour-plus runtime. This lack of tension between the characters could be a misstep in scripting, directing, or casting.

From the get-go, the film offers a somewhat cringey history lesson on the space race, reminiscent of a simplistic elementary school report. However, viewers willing to overlook this can enjoy Johansson’s production, aided by a well-rounded cast including Woody Harrelson, Ray Romano, and Jim Rash. Rash’s character, a diva director hired for a secret film project, adds humor to the mix, even if some jokes, especially the recurring Kubrick references, miss the mark.

The film portrays a rose-tinted late 1960s, where racism and homophobia are almost non-existent, and elements like misogyny and former President Richard Nixon serve merely as punchlines and minor nuisances. Unfortunately, this superficial exploration of the era means the film misses an opportunity to engage with the period’s depth and complexity.

One notable misstep is the extended focus on the Apollo 11 astronauts and the obligatory launch sequence. This sequence feels clunky and awkward in this film, offering nothing new to what we’ve seen executed better in countless other films. Instead of adding grandeur, it serves as an expensive distraction from the main narrative.

Ultimately, “Fly Me to the Moon” shines brightest when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its most compelling idea is Johansson and Tatum pairing as a modern-day version of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. With a charming dynamic, the duo needs only material that better showcases their potential.

An Apple Original Films/Columbia Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for some strong language and smoking. The film has a runtime of 132 minutes.

Source: various sources