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  • Nate Adams

'Spaceman' review: Adam Sandler’s sluggish therapy session with a spider


Courtesy of Netflix

 

Trying to build on the success of earlier dramatic works in “Uncut Gems” and “Hustle,” Adam Sandler finds himself headlining, arguably, the most inaccessible movie of his career in Johan Renck’s “Spaceman.” A slow, meditative, and not very engaging melodrama, “Spaceman” is based on the novel “Spaceman of Bohemia” by Jaroslav Kalfar and, from the start, it makes the very odd decision of sticking to the source material and having Sandler play a Czech astronaut even though he never once brandishes a Russian accent. Even stranger is the metaphysical story at its center: one that revolves around the evolution of the universe and the inclusion of an alien (voiced by a monotone Paul Dano) that looks like a giant spider. If I were a betting man, I’d say the completion rate of this movie will be considerably low by Netflix standards. 


Sandler plays Jakub, who is halfway through his year-long solo mission when we meet him. He’s taking samples from an ominous space cloud that’s hovering above the earth’s surface while also trying to juggle his life back at home. And for good reason, because his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan) has stopped uploading messages and he can sense that something is off. Mission Control, of course, is knowing more than they are letting on, but they don’t want to compromise the objective and his superiors (led by Isabella Rossellini) decide to withhold the information.


Distraught, irritable, and alone, Jakub is at an all time low when he meets a soothsaying alien (voiced by Dano) named Hanus, an extraterrestrial organism from the beginning of time sent to study “skinny humans” and various planets. He becomes enamored with Jakub’s feelings and suddenly “Spaceman” turns into what is essentially a two hour long therapy session wherein the main character ebbs and flows through memories of his life, especially those with Lenka. How we get here and where it ends up leave plenty to be desired, and the movie grinds its gears until arriving at an obvious conclusion in that sometimes we have to go towards unexpected places in order to find ourselves. 


It’s evident Sandler loves opportunities to explore non-comedic roles, and I’ve enjoyed his range in films “Reign Over Me,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” and even the oft-chided “Men, Woman & Children,” but he’s stranded in “Spaceman” to the point of almost no return. He brings what juice he can (and the brief interactions we see with him alongside Mulligan are genuinely soothing), but Colby Day’s screenplay relies a bit too much on cliches and not enough gravity to keep it from falling out of orbit. 


Grade: C- 


SPACEMAN debuts on Netflix Friday, March 1st  


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