A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Like the movie equivalent of the easy-listening Frank Sinatra track that it shares its title with, Fly Me to the Moon is a bright and breezy '60s-set romcom.


The backdrop is the Space Race, when America and the Soviet Union tussled to become the first country to put a man on the Moon. An opening of news reel footage reacquaints us with the era, everything from President Nixon to the Vietnam War conflict.

If this sounds heavyweight, think again.

Scarlett Johansson plays Kelly Jones, a go-getting advertising executive with a slightly chequered past.

One day, she’s accosted by Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson), a government operative who wants to recruit her to promote NASA’s man-on-the-Moon mission to both politicians and the general public. This costly exercise requires continued funding to keep it rolling, and Kelly’s got the skills to sell this flight-of-fancy.

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Her biggest stumbling block is Cole Davis (Channing Tatum), a former pilot and the launch director. He’s sharp, handsome and by-the-book. He also does not appreciate Kelly’s elastic approach to the truth, especially when she fakes interviews with the media, using actors to portray the NASA team because they’re more approachable than the real thing.

"Everyone is just a customer to you," Cole bemoans, all too aware of her businesslike nature.

Naturally, this sets up the will-they-won’t-they dynamic that is so typical of Hollywood romcoms, and there are certainly some swoon-inducing moments, such as when Cole takes Kelly for a spin in his two-person plane, ‘Jenny’.

But despite director Greg Berlanti (The Broken Hearts Club) at the helm, and Johansson and Tatum’s easygoing chemistry, it isn’t enough to make this a particularly fizzing romance, as their potential coupling takes a backseat to the launch itself.

Scripted by a trio of writers including Rose Gilroy – whose mother is actress Rene Russo – the film distinguishes itself when Moe instructs Kelly to create a faked version of the Moon landing.

Dubbed Project Artemis, this contingency plan is put in place to fool the public in case the real mission goes disastrously wrong. Reluctantly, Kelly recruits Lance (Jim Rash), a high-maintenance director who is tasked with shooting the scene in a warehouse on the base – without Cole Davis finding out.

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Toying with the age-old conspiracy theory that the Apollo 11 moon landing was a hoax, the script even references famed film director Stanley Kubrick (thought by some to have been involved in replicating the Moon landing).

All this gives the film its motor, as launch day approaches and the creepy Moe continues to flex his government authority. There’s even a subplot involving a black cat, a moggy that feels entirely shoehorned into the story to create havoc at just the wrong moment.

At one point Kelly talks about the Moon landing as "a whole new way to see the world", and introducing the idea that the government might be corrupt enough to sell the public a fake Moon landing chimes with this idea.

Unfortunately, Fly Me to the Moon doesn’t quite work as a conspiracy-laden tale, just as it splutters as a romantic comedy. Somehow it tries to bundle it all together in one gleaming package – until the stitching comes undone.

What keeps the film chugging along, primarily, are Johansson and, to a lesser extent, Tatum, who both ooze movie star appeal. Flying to the Moon may be "the hardest thing that’s ever been done", comments Cole, but these two make it all look so easy. It’s just a shame that the story isn’t as balanced as one might hope.

Still, for those looking for an easy-on-the-eye, light-on-the-brain romance, this will scratch the itch.

Fly Me to the Moon is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 11th July 2024.


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