Review: Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood | SXSW 2022

Score: C+

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Zachary Levi, Jack Black, Glen Powell

Running Time: 97 min

Rated: PG-13

There are a ton of coming-of-age films out there. There are a ton of coming-of-age films set in the late 1960s. So what makes Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood any different? Although identifying itself as a sci-fi film, there is more a very specific snapshot of growing up in the Houston suburbs in 1969. Unfortunately, painting such a specific portrait means plot is ultra light and a movie billed as a space exploration film feels more grounded than interstellar.

Loosely based on Linklater’s childhood, Apollo 10 1/2 is an animated film that imagines local kid Stanley is picked for a top-secret mission when NASA accidentally builds their shuttle too small. He will head to the moon as a test before Apollo 11. Before we get too far into Stanley’s NASA adventure, the elder Stanley, acting as narrator (and voiced by Jack Black), interrupts to explain what childhood was like in the Houston suburbs. This walk through the past is utterly charming at first, filmed in live action and then animated using rotoscope. Set mostly in the summer, you can feel the heat and humidity through the screen. It’s a snapshot of “the good ol’ days” and with five siblings, it’s easy to relate to his boisterous family in one way or the other. But this snapshot starts to drag as it becomes a litany of facts rather than telling any story. Suddenly we’re listing off television shows that aired at the time or movies that were precisely in theaters in the summer of 1969. Reminiscing over a childhood consuming culture on your television is definitely relatable and surely influenced Linklater’s career choice, but it doesn’t make a compelling film.

The most interesting parts outside of the family dynamic are the short stints into Stanley’s time at NASA, boosted in no small part by the dry humor of Zachary Levi and Glen Powell playing NASA suits in charge of sending a kid to the moon. Still, those scenes feel rushed and matter-of-fact, more of a thin plot device than actual excitement.

Apollo 10 1/2 is a fun, nostalgic watch for anyone who grew up in the late 1960s or in Texas. But it fails to be more than a collection of memories and doesn’t quite coalesce into an impactful coming-of-age story.


About Katie Anaya

Katie Anaya