Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (CREDIT: Netflix)

Starring: Milo Coy, Jack Black, Josh Wiggins, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman, Danielle Guilbot, Glen Powell, Zachary Levi

Director: Richard Linklater

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Mildly Adult Moments

Release Date: April 1, 2022 (Netflix)

Isn’t it cool when kids do something that only adults are supposed to do? Well, maybe not all the time, at least not in the real world. Sure, a toddler dressing up like a doctor is so gosh darn cute, but that same toddler performing surgery is probably not the best idea. But we’re talking about fictional worlds right now! And that means that children can hold down dangerous jobs, and perform them quite admirably to boot. That brings me to the Richard Linklater-directed Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, a rotoscope-animated adventure in which a boy named Stanley (Milo Coy) is recruited by NASA to participate in the Apollo 11 mission. Now that’s some historical revisionism I can get behind.

In this alterna-vision of the 1960s, finding fresh astronauts is akin to the modern practice of college scouts traversing through middle schools to find the next big football or basketball phenom. A couple of NASA officials (Glen Powell, Zachary Levi) are hanging around a recess kickball game because one of the lunar modules is too small for adults and they’re hoping to find someone here who can fit in it. So they key right in on Stanley, and I’m all ready to go for some astronaut training montages. But not so quick, as that’s not exactly what Linklater has in mind. Instead, this is mostly a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale about growing up in a big family in 1960s Texas, with the Space Race serving mostly as a background event. An important background event that sets the tone, but not the main event no matter how you slice it.

If Apollo 10½ had focused more on the child astronaut conceit, it would’ve been a lot more unique than what we actually ended up with. Instead, it’s a familiar piece of coming-of-age nostalgia from an oft-explored era. A well-made piece of familiar nostalgia, with compelling narration from Linklater vet Jack Black as adult Stanley, but decidedly familiar nonetheless. So just keep your expectations in check about the potential for freshness, and you should be able to find something to enjoy here.

Apollo 10½ is Recommended If You Like: 1960s fashion, 1960s TV shows, 1960 music

Grade: 3 out of 5 Lunar Modules