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'Fly Me To The Moon' review: Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum team up in charming rom-com

Courtesy of Apple TV+/Sony


A stylish, old-fashioned two hander with likable stars who seem to enjoy each other’s company, Greg Berlanti’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” might not reach for the stars, but it’s a down-to-earth romantic comedy that offers a refreshing change of a pace in a summer filled with reboots, sequels, and more reboots. It might not be the most historically accurate, though its cheeky premise-what if a marketing executive had to work with the United States government to stage a fake moon landing as a backup plan in order to sell the Apollo 11 mission?-is clever enough to skate by. Plus having the charisma of Scarlett Johansson is always a plus. 

She plays Kelly Jones, a trusty marketing guru who could probably sell ice to an eskimo. She’ll do just about anything for a hook, including faking a pregnancy, and manipulating the truth, and is always followed around by her assistant, Ruby (Anna Garcia). Essentially, Kelly is a con woman, and is always on the prowl for selling a good pitch even if she has to step over ethical guidelines to nab it. In other words, she’s exactly who the United States would want to sell the moon landing and raise public awareness and interest when sentiment, especially among those in congress, is at an all time low. 

Kelly is quickly jettisoned to NASA headquarters in Cape Kennedy at the height of the space race, and discovers the job is far from a cake walk. Aside from finding a good angle to get Americans excited about Apollo 11, she must also deal with non-PR friendly personnel, among them Henry Smalls (Ray Romano) and Cole Davis (Channing Tatum), who could care less about the optics surrounding their objective. Nevertheless, Kelly enlists Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, for splashy ad campaigns that plug everything from watches and toothpaste to Tang and Rice Krispies. 

This sets up the dynamic between the two bickering leads. As the launch director, Cole’s job is to make sure everything is user friendly, safe, and operating at efficient levels; while Kelly needs to sell, sell, sell no matter the cost. It’s your typical romantic comedy fluff that pits two people who should obviously be together against themselves and Berlanti, who’s CW street cred makes him no stranger to melodrama, understands that’s what audiences expect. And, because of the charming leads and their effortless chemistry, it sort-of works. 

More conflict arises when Richard Nixon’s right-hand man Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson) slaps a mandate on Kelly to hire a director to film a fake moon landing as a contingency plan. We then get a subplot involving Jim Rash’s hilarious, snobbish director Lance Vespertine trying to construct a replica of the moon and make it seem as realistic as possible. It’s a compelling idea that sacks on another subplot in a movie that’s filled with perhaps one too many. 

Tatum might not match the energetic prowess of Johansson (who at times, just for the fun of it, sports a Southern accent when trying to woo a conservative senator or can bring on the charm and convince a pair of police officers to give her an escort after they just witnessed her breaking into an electronics store), they both are effective. As is the impeccable 1960s aesthetic that looks authentic alongside the buoyant (and colorful) scenic and costume design. 

“Fly Me to the Moon” might struggle to land the tougher emotional beats (a scene where Cole flips out a news reporter for asking him a tough question is very cringe), but the romantic elements serve to counteract those moments. It’s humorous when it needs to be, especially as it pertains to its revisionist history mindset, and preaches an old lesson Hollywood seems to often forget: that you can be broad and appealing without having franchise tags, spandex, or stylized violence for the sake of making a few extra bucks. It’s not rocket science.

Grade: B 

FLY ME TO THE MOON opens in theaters Friday, July 12th 


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