'Moonshot' review: Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse rom-com is predictable but sweet

While there is no cracking chemistry between the leads, the sci-fi romance is light and playful, and at times, surprisingly deep

Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse play the lead in the sci-fi rom-com 'Moonshot'. Photo: Warner Bros Pictures
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Lana Condor’s performance in Netflix’s delightful To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before immediately established her as the potential new queen of the romantic-comedy.

While its subsequent sequels, To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You and To All The Boys: Always And Forever, didn’t quite match the acclaim and popularity of the original, Condor was still just as sweet, funny and charming.

'Moonshot'

Director: Chris Winterbauer

Stars: Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse

Rating: 3/5

With 2021’s Always And Forever having seemingly brought the To All The Boys franchise to a close, Moonshot marks Condor’s first return to the genre. But rather than just being a straight forward romantic-comedy, Moonshot is a science-fiction film, too.

Set in 2049, Moonshot unfolds in a future where Mars has been terraformed and colonised by the very best that humanity has to offer. Thus, it only takes a month to travel from Earth to the Red Planet.

Student/barista Walt (Cole Sprouse) has applied to be part of the Kovi Industries Student Mars Programme on 37 occasions, only to be rejected each time. Meanwhile, Sophie (Condor) has been waiting to complete her studies before joining her long-term boyfriend Calvin (Mason Gooding) on Mars.

Walt decides that he has to get to Mars as quickly as possible after spending a romantic night with Ginny (Emily Rudd), only for her to reveal that she’s travelling to the planet the very next morning. Unable to afford a ticket, Walt manipulates Sophie into helping him sneak onboard.

Over the course of the journey, Walt and Sophie start to grow closer. At the same time, though, he has to pretend to be Calvin, otherwise he’ll immediately be sent back to Earth once they arrive.

Despite Condor’s past achievements in the rom-com genre, and her more prominent star status, she actually plays second fiddle to Sprouse for most of Moonshot. That’s especially true of the opening act of the film, which is focused on showing just how desperate Walt is to make it off Earth.

'Moonshot' unfolds in a future where Mars has been terraformed and colonised by the very best that humanity has to offer. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

In fact, it actually takes a while to warm to Condor’s Sophie. Not only is she a little smug and dismissive at first, but there’s very little of the humour or warmth that made her performances in the To All The Boys films so memorable. Luckily for Moonshot, Sprouse’s eagerness and charm papers over these cracks, while he also quickly makes her character more relatable when they’re together.

The more scenes that the pair share, the more sweet and engaging the film becomes. Rather than instantly making viewers pine for them to be together, Moonshot spends its time trying to build a genuine connection. In the process, Sophie becomes much more honest, as well as funny and vulnerable, all of which Condor sells with aplomb.

Sprouse deserves special praise for bringing an entertaining energy to Moonshot. At first, you can’t help but worry that his eagerness might soon become annoying. Thankfully, that never proves to be the case, as Max Taxe’s script constantly reminds viewers that he’s the underdog, while his doggedness and positivity erodes even his most irritating tendencies.

Cole Sprouse brings an entertaining energy to 'Moonshot'. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Even though it’s enjoyable to watch them on-screen together, Sprouse and Condor’s chemistry doesn’t come close to matching her rapport with Noah Centineo in the To All The Boys trilogy. At times, they come across more as warring siblings instead of two people slowly falling in love as they make their way across the universe.

Despite the lack of fire and passion between its two leads, Moonshot always manages to remain engaging because of its pacy script, smart direction, and top-notch supporting cast. Zach Braff, Michele Buteau and Peter Woodward, who voices Gary the robot, all inject some much-needed laughs, where the film otherwise would have sagged.

While Taxe’s script does needlessly over-explain plot details on occasion, it also has some solid quips and one-liners. More than that, it’s also earnest and, at times, surprisingly deep. This meshes perfectly with sophomore director Chris Winterbauer’s light and playful vision for the film. His bright colour choices and inoffensive tone ensure that Moonshot is at least visually interesting, even as it plods along to its predictable conclusion.

Moonshot is out in UAE cinemas from April 21

Updated: April 20, 2022, 11:23 AM
'Moonshot'

Director: Chris Winterbauer

Stars: Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse

Rating: 3/5