Space Cadet (2024) Movie Review – A fun but thinly written comedy that never achieves lift-off

A fun but thinly written comedy that never achieves lift-off

Space: The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of Florida party girl Rex Simpson (Emma Roberts) who boldly goes where no kooky female bartender has gone before by joining the NASA space program!

That’s essentially the premise of this silly comedy that is rarely out of this world but is enjoyable enough, so long as you’re not expecting laughs a minute or a plotline that makes the slightest bit of logical sense. 

Rex Simpson is a character you have seen before. She’s not unlike Goldie Hawn’s Judy from Private Benjamin or sorority queen Ellie Woods (Reese Witherspoon) in Legally Blonde. Judy joined the US Army, Ellie went to Harvard, and in another fish-out-of-water scenario, Rex becomes a space cadet at the Johnson Space Centre. She’s as unequipped as those other comedy characters but thanks to her plucky spirit and can-do attitude, she eventually shows the people around her what she’s capable of.

At the beginning of the movie, we learn that Rex had always dreamed of going into space, ever since she was a little girl. But her dreams and determination took a stumble when her mother died. Despite getting good grades in school to ensure a brighter future ahead of her, she ended up becoming a bartender, preferring to party with her friends than choose a life path that would take her closer to the stars. 

But when she meets an old friend at her high school reunion and learns that he works in space tourism, she is reminded of her dream to become an astronaut. She doesn’t possess the necessary requirements to become a space cadet but writes an inspiring letter to NASA anyway, telling them why they should choose her over the other applicants.

Rex’s friend Nadine intercepts the letter and immediately scraps it. She then creates a resume that she thinks will better impress NASA, adding such skills as piloting to better impress the folks at space command. It’s this resume that nabs Rex a spot on the program, even though she’s completely unqualified in reality.

We follow Rex as she undertakes her training at the space centre, alongside the other candidates who are as keen to get into space as she is. Among these is her insecure roommate Violet (Kuhoo Verma) who spends her spare time writing romantic fantasies about people finding love in the stars, and Stacy (Desi Lydic), a snooty high-achiever who is appalled by Rex, who she thinks is dim and common and not worth spending her tax dollars on.

Heading the training programme are Logan (Tom Hopper), a stereotypical British nerd complete with glasses, and Pam (Gabrielle Union), a tough but tender astronaut who has worked her way to the top of her field. They put the space cadets through their paces, with simulated space missions and rigorous physical exercise. 

All of this is pleasant enough, with multiple scenes of Rex proving her worth, bonding with her classmates, and occasionally getting herself into trouble, such as a moment when she is put in control of a jet plane, despite having no knowledge of how to fly it. 

It’s thanks to Roberts that the film is as watchable as it is. She’s a good actress, as adept at playing comical roles in such movies as We’re the Millers and Holidate as she is at playing more serious, complicated characters in dark TV shows like American Horror Story and Scream Queens. 

As Rex, Roberts gives a light and frothy performance, managing to show the bubbly side of her character without being too ingratiating. Even when the movie is at its weakest, with scenes that could have come straight out of a cheesy 90s sitcom, she manages to retain our interest thanks to her sparky line delivery and natural charm. 

Sadly, the movie is never as funny as it could have been. There are a handful of scenarios that could have been milked for a few more laughs but the writers seem content to make do with the bare minimum, instead of aiming for the stars with a bigger gag rate. There are a few one-liners and incidental moments of comedy that do raise a smile but the movie’s premise called out for a screenplay that was more hilariously written than the one the actors were handed. 

As such, Space Cadet is largely unmemorable but it’s easy to watch thanks to the effervescent Roberts and the talents of some of the side players, such as Poppy Liu who is a delight to watch as Rex’s friend Nadine, especially during scenes when she has to put on different voices to fool NASA into thinking she’s Rex’s fake references. 

If you’re looking for something lighthearted to pass the time, you can do much worse than Space Cadet. It won’t change your life, despite its “anything is possible if you put your heart in it” message, but it might make you chuckle occasionally. In a world that can sometimes be stressful to live in (and inescapable for those of us who aren’t astronauts), that’s sometimes all we need to give us a break from reality. 


Read More: Space Cadet Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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