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The Astronaut's Wife   D+

New Line Cinema

Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Rand Ravich
Writer: Rand Ravich
Cast: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy, Nick Cassavetes.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Astronauts Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp, sporting an unconvincing southern accent and some very nice highlights) and Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) take a trip into outerspace, but there are some problems and they lose contact with Earth for two minutes. They make it back, but they seem, well, a little different.

Well, something's definitely wrong with Alex, who experiences severe convulsions and hallucinations when he returns. But Spencer seems just as emotionally inert and dull as when he left, although his wife senses something. Charlize Theron plays Spencer's put-upon wife Jillian (in a role very similar to her more effective turn The Devil's Advocate), and it takes her 90 minutes of the film's running time to figure out everything the audience already knows. In fact, if you've seen the trailer for The Astronaut's Wife, you've pretty much seen the entire movie.

Anyway, Spencer impregnates Jillian soon after he gets back, and this turns into a bad reincarnation of Rosemary's Baby -- hey, Charlize even has the Mia Farrow hairdo thing going. So what's growing inside of poor Jillian -- an alien, a computer, or what? Is her husband still really her husband? And do we really give a damn?

It was about 15 minutes into this movie that I thought to myself, Man, this is really bad. The dialogue is quite pathetic, the scares are practically nonexistent, and the characters all seem, well, emotionally subdued. No, wait -- I liked Joe Morton's character, a conspiracy nut who figures everything out and tries to warn Jillian, because he's the only one who manages to inject a little life into the dreary atmosphere. The Astronaut's Wife is basically a B-movie with a big budget, name stars, but very little imagination.

First-time director Rand Ravich (who penned the disappointing script for Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh) piles visual style on quite thick, perhaps thinking that a few amazing shots would redeem this mess. He keeps things moving along at a snail's pace, trying to evoke the dreariest mood possible, possibly building up to something spectacular. But no. It's all buildup and no payoff. The climax is visually stunning, but it's lame and predictable. The final "twist" at the end is just plain irritating -- not to mention clichéd and dumb.

Ah, well, the movie might serve a purpose as pure eye candy -- with the dark and stylish cinematography and actors as beautiful as Depp and Theron chewing up the screen time. Yeah, it's eye candy that'll lure you right to sleep.

Review published 02.18.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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