The time is July 1969. Apollo 11 is ready to blast off to the Moon. But wait? What if something goes wrong? What if they don’t make it? Television time is locked. The moon landing will be broadcast live. NASA and the US government can’t show a disaster on tv. They need a contingent plan and leave it to our beloved bureaucrats and powers that be to come up with a plan – hire Stanley Kubrick to make a fake moon landing film pursuant to all the NASA specs for the real LEM, the moon landing site, the flag, etc. No one will know the difference IF the film rolls instead of live tv. And why Kubrick? “2001: A Space Odyssey” had recently released which, to the CIA and NASA, meant Kubrick knows how to “shoot space”. And so, we have “Moonwalkers”. Laugh-out-loud-tears-rolling-down-cheeks-rolling-in-the-aisle-funny!!
Enter CIA Agent Kidman. A one man wrecking machine, Kidman can get the job done, but he also suffers with severe PTSD, nightmares and hallucinations from his days in Viet Nam. Although not thrilled at the assignment, Kidman is a company man, so off he goes to jolly old England to meet up with Kubrick and his agent, neither of whom Kidman has a clue of what they look like.
Arriving in England at the offices of Kubrick’s agent Derek Kaye, with whom he only spoke on the phone, he meets the man whom he believes is Kaye. As the audience and everyone else in the film knows, this is not Kaye, but his cousin Jonny, a wannabe record promoter/band manager who is deep in debt with loansharks ready to cut off his hands. He sees all the money the US is willing to pay Kubrick, and voila! – he’s Derek Kaye and he’s gonna deliver Kubrick. Only he doesn’t know Kubrick. But his actor roommate Leon looks “kinda” like him.
As Jonny quickly learns, it’s going to take a lot to pull the wool over Kidman’s eyes and it doesn’t take long before Jonny’s deception spirals out of control with Kidman and Jonny realizing one thing; if they don’t make this movie, both of them are dead – either at the hands of the loansharks seeking money from Jonny or the CIA for Kidman’s failing the mission. Assuring Kidman he “knows a guy” who can help them, the two look to “auteur” Renatus to make the film. And with that, we plunge down into the rabbit hole with Kidman and Jonny and company for one of the most hilarious and headiest trips to come around in a long while!
As Kidman, Ron Perlman is an absolute scream, delivering a performance that feels like George Kennedy and Lee Marvin melted into one another. Rupert Grint is perfection as foppish “Nervous Nelly” Jonny, but who actually has a character arc that develops into something with strength and decisiveness. Similarly, Perlman’s Kidman goes from total complete uptight PTSD CIA heavy to a little looser and more “normal” kind of guy. The story plays, as do their two performances, towards a meeting in the middle as one loosens up and one buttons up. It’s an engaging pairing with terrific chemistry between Perlman and Grint.
Tom Audenaert is a scene stealer as Renatus, giving him a camp Victor Buono aka King Tut on “Batman” tv series flair. A giddy delight to watch his work. But there are no words for the hilarity of Eric Lampaert as fictional band lead singer and rock opera wannabe Glen. It’s impossible not to laugh every time he is on screen and never moreso than when dressed as a floating jellyfish in space. Fueling the funny throughout is also a top notch performance by Robert Sheehan who, as Leon impersonating Stanley Kubrick, is a hippiesque dream come true.
Long a fan of screenwriter Dean Craig’s dark delicious comedy styling with his story construct and character development, here is no different. He pushes the envelope and then some while incorporating Kubrick references and tongue-in-cheek nods at every turn both in dialogue and with visuals. Previously unfamiliar with the work of director Antoine Bardoue-Jacquet, the game is now on for seeing more of his directorial escapades. Playing to the conspiracy theorists who have long said the moon landing was faked, “Moonwalkers” is a gem. The time period is played to perfection, and the fact that it’s set in London with a “looser, freer, free love, LSD and mushroom laced culture at the time” just fuels the funny.
The attention to detail with character and production design is actually quite meticulous – as is costuming – and belies the “haphazard” lifestyle and filming methods of Renatus. Over the top camp is delicious with kills, blood spurting and, of course, the recreation of the moon landing. And yes, it does look very cool but adding to the humor is how taken Jonny, Kidman and Leon are with the work and that they truly believe it “looks real”. Hilarious!
Destined to become a cult classic, “Moonwalkers” is a cakewalk of comedic proportions!
Directed by Antoine Bardoue-Jacquet
Written by Dean Craig
Cast: Ron Perlman, Rupert Grint, Tom Audenaert, Eric Lampaert, Robert Sheehan