Directed by Michael Polish


  With THE ASTRONAUT FARMER, the Polish Brothers (Michael directing, Mark acting, and both writing the script) use a folksy veneer to their mythmaking that belies a sly sophistication, weaving together Joseph Campbell at his most profound with the spirit of The Little Engine That Could. The result is a film that explores not just the reaches of low-earth orbit, but also the disquieting effect that dreams engender among those without the vision thing. It is as profound as it is joyous.

Our hero is Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), a Texas rancher near the fortuitously monikered town of Story. He made it as far as the space program without ever getting into space because of a family crisis. Unable to quite leave that dream behind, though, he built a working and workable rocket in his barn, thanks to a degree in aeronautical engineering and NASA’s junkyard. His family gets into it, playing dinner-table games about what to bring along on the trip, though whether devoted wife Audie (Virginia Madsen in a gauzy halo-like haze) truly believes it will ever fly is debatable. Never mind. Son Shepard (Max Theriot), as in Alan Shepard, a true believer and the mission commander, despite his tender 15 years, and daughters Stanley (Jordan Polish) and Sunshine (Jasper Polish) have the infinite faith that only children and holy fools like Charles can seem to muster. As a family, collectively and individually, they parry quips and left-handed compliments handed out by the locals who refuse to take it seriously. In fact, no one takes Charles seriously, not even when he files a flight plan with the FAA. It’s when he tries to buy enough rocket fuel to slip the bonds of gravity that people, specifically the Feds, start to take him very, very, seriously. Maybe too seriously, as they descend en-masse with the full force of the government's disapproval behind them.

Excerpt from Killer Movie Reviews (Andrea Chase) review located HERE


Theatrical Release: October 15th, 2006

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:44:00 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 3.39 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1) 
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• How to Build a Rocket: The Making of The Astronaut Farmer
• A Conversation with NASA Astronaut David Scott
• Bloopers and outtakes
NOTE: Opposite side of DVD has 1.33 version

DVD Release Date: July 10th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 27




I don't want to talk about the image too much as I have a feeling that my screener copy is not representing the final version. If it does it is fairly thin with a very low bitrate. Colors and detail seem to hold up enough to enjoy the film though. Speaking of the film I kind of liked it although it's something you might see from Disney - simplified wholesome story with no jolting surprises and exporting a virtuous fantasy. Billy Bob is somewhat wooden and his role certainly doesn't expand his versatility. Still he is always fun to watch - as is Bruce Willis (cameo).


The 5.1 audio sounds quite good although it is never tested in the entire film (a bit around the rocket I suppose). It is supported with English, French or Spanish subtitles.

Supplements include a Making of featurette with some input from the director, his brother and Virginia Madsen. It explains some inventive production details. Also included are some Blooper outtakes and a conversation with NASA astronaut David Scott. Like I said, I liked it - a decent family film and those keen may also enjoy. Perhaps the release DVD has a more advanced image quality although this is progressive and anamorphic.   

Gary W. Tooze



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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC


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