By now we’ve all heard the conspiracy theories regarding the 1969 moon landing: that it must be fake footage created by professional filmmakers in an attempt to convince the world that the United States actually landed on the moon when, in fact, it didn’t. The theory is nonsense, of course, but that doesn’t stop it from being very interesting. Check out the recent documentary Room 237 for more on this madness. Or, if you’re in the mood for a bizarre French comedy that uses the “fake moon landing” premise as a framework on which to hang an increasingly more wacky series of garish shenanigans, you might enjoy Moonwalkers. (Accent on “might.”)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a gruff CIA agent who suffers from PTSD and sees re-animated corpses at random moments is ordered to travel to the UK and hire Stanley Kubrick to film a fake moon landing that the American government can use in case the Apollo 11 mission turns out to be a tragic failure, only the agent (who is played by Ron Perlman, by the way) ends up giving a suitcase full of cash to a failed band manager and his perpetually stoned friend who looks a little bit like Stanley Kubrick, and those two idiots get robbed by the local mafia thugs right before Agent Ron Perlman realizes his mistake and threatens to kill everyone involved — and THEN the idiotic band manager (who is played by Rupert Grint, by the way) proposes that they all head off to film the fake moon landing with the help of a artistic hippie commune run by an egotistical dolt who can’t understand why he can’t put giant jellyfish on the moon.
And it all gets a little crazier from there.
If it sounds like Moonwalkers has more than enough wacky stuff to fill at least three movies, that wouldn’t be too far off. Unfortunately the material found here ranges from relatively clever and occasionally quite funny to grating, gross, annoying, and repetitive. At its best moments (mainly during the film’s first half, which displays a nice energy as it rolls through its absurd plot contortions), Moonwalkers has a lot of fun using a historical backdrop for a farce so willfully absurd it boggles the mind, but by the time Perlman and Grint end up at the hippie commune (and spend the rest of the movie there), Moonwalkers has gone from an oddly amusing curiosity to a particularly inebriated party guest who has overstayed his welcome.
It doesn’t help matters that screenwriter Dean Craig (Death at a Funeral) and first-time director Antoine Bardou-Jacvquet have opted to insert a handful of tonally-mishandled action sequences in which a whole lot of random carnage takes place for no logical (or satisfying) reason. Act III stops dead in its comedic tracks so that a bunch of faceless CIA agents and anonymous street thugs can gun-massacre one another as the rest of the movie tries to deliver an outrageously wacky finale that seems to go on for hours.
On the plus side, it’s always nice to see Ron Perlman playing on the silly side of things, and he does a fine job of keeping Moonwalkers interesting even as it travels from enjoyably weird to slightly tiresome to more or less obnoxious. Rupert Grint earns a few chuckles throughout, as do a handful of the supporting players, but ultimately Moonwalkers feels a whole lot like a funny idea that never got fleshed out beyond its second act, and the result is a comedy that starts out well enough before getting mired in aimless improv, elaborate gags that go nowhere, and a disconcerting focus on the alleged hilarity of obese men jumping around in underpants.
2.5 out of 5 wildly overstuffed burritos
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