Review: In “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood,” nostalgia becomes rocket fuel

Editor's note: This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the SXSW Film Festival. It has been expanded and republished timed to the film's premiere. "Apollo 10½" is now streaming on Netflix.

Chicago - Richard Linklater returns to his beloved rotoscoping animation format for this sweet nostalgia trip back to 1969. 

Inspired by his own childhood in Houston in the 1960s, "Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood" pairs a showy framing device about a kid astronaut with a slice-of-life look at suburbia on the edge of the Space Race. More narrated docudrama than narrative feature, "Apollo 10½" does at times feel like an older relative monologuing at you about every minute detail from their childhood — from what they ate for dinner to what they watched on TV. 

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood - Milo Coy as Stan. Cr: Netflix © 2022

"Let me tell you about life back then. It was a great time to be a kid," Jack Black's narrator explains early in the film.

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But that myopia is also part of its charm. "Apollo 10½" luxuriates in the details of childhood, some of which are universal (sibling rivalries, stressful playground games) and some of which are deeply tied to this particular place and time (riding in the back of a pickup truck down the highway, attending a school where everyone’s parents worked for NASA). Linklater and his collaborators clearly have an immense fondness for a time when science class felt like current events. 


Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood - (L-R) GLEN POWELL as Bostick and ZACHARY LEVI as Kranz. Cr: Netflix © 2022

And while "Apollo 10½" will perhaps play best for those who have nostalgia for their own Space Age childhoods, it’s also not a bad history lesson for a pivotal moment in American history, as remembered by a less-than-reliable narrator.

Grade: B

Streaming on Netflix April 1. Rated PG-13. 98 minutes. Dir: Richard Linklater. Featuring the voices of: Milo Coy, Jack Black, Glen Powell, Zachary Levi, Josh Wiggins, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise.


Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood - Cr: Netflix © 2022

Head into the cosmos with these movies, streaming (for free!) on Tubi

Vicious Lips (1986): This campy grindhouse horror follows an all-girl hair band (the titular Vicious Lips) as they take their act on the road — or whatever you call a tour that’s intergalactic. On the space road? The asteroid belt? Whatever you call it, the trek takes them to the far-flung reaches of the galaxy, where terrors (and power chords) await. Rated R. 80 minutes. Dir: Albert Pyun. Featuring: Dru-Anne Perry, Tony Kientiz, Linda Kerridge, Gina Calabrese, Don Barnhart Jr.

The Captains (2011) & The Captains Close Up (2013): In William Shatner’s documentary and TV docuseries, the actor behind the original Captain James T. Kirk interviews his fellow Trek Captains and cohorts, including Chris Pine, Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Jonathan Frakes, Scott Bakula and others. Film: 96 minutes, rated TV-PG. Series: five episodes. Dir: William Shatner.

The Fountain (2006): Auterist filmmaker Darren Aronofsky directs Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in this densely-packed, emotionally rich film, which chronicles "a man's thousand-year struggle to save the woman he loves as he embarks on three quests across three lives." Rated PG-13. 96 minutes. Dir: Darren Aronofsky. Also featuring Ellen Burstyn, Stephen McHattie, Cliff Curtis.

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