Netflix releases an absolute mountain of content every day – so much so that it’s hard to keep up. On April Fool’s Day 2022, the streaming service is pushing the newly released The Bubble into everyone’s feeds, yet there’s another, much better-reviewed movie that deserves your attention.
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is the latest collaborative effort from the Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater and actor Jack Black. The pair have worked together on numerous occasions, perhaps most famously on School of Rock, and their new movie is an equally joyful release, telling the story of a fourth-grader, Stanley, who’s sent to space after a pair of NASA scientists – played by Zachary Levi and Glen Powell – realize that they have accidentally built modules that are too small for an adult.
Though about a youngster, Apollo 10½ is very much set in the past, the fictional events taking place in 1969, the year the very real Apollo 11 first took humans to the moon. Plus, the non-fantastical elements are deeply rooted in Linklater’s own past, with the film acting as partly autobiographical. Meanwhile, Black plays an older version of Stanley. The story’s not the only notable thing about Apollo 10½ – while the movie was shot in live-action, the whole thing is animated, the actors rotoscoped over, leading to some fantastically inventive sequences.
Apollo 10½ is Linklater’s best-reviewed movie since Boyhood, which just happens to be one of the best-reviewed movies of all time, according to Rotten Tomatoes. “Richard Linklater is looking back from outer space at childhood’s blue remembered hills in this intensely enjoyable and sweet family movie for Netflix,” writes The Guardian (opens in new tab). “This is a film of enormous charm; it’s such a treat.”
“Apollo 10 1/2 starts off as a fantasy, a family comedy and a loosey-goosey flashback,” says Rolling Stone. (opens in new tab) “It exits as a tribute to imagination, which – like so many of Linklater’s best movies – uses something personal as a jumping-off point for something poignant, funny, expansive, and ultimately moving.”
The AV Club (opens in new tab) notes: “There is no universal experience of childhood, but the film includes a scene of Stan and his siblings meeting the Abominable Snowman on the Alpine Sleigh Ride at Astroworld that captures the essence of still being young enough to get lost in imagination. For kids at Stan’s age, they don’t know it also might be the last time, but the way Linklater captures the exhilarating free fall of that moment should make every grown up smile.”
“Linklater’s bittersweet collage might be glued together from the shreds of semi-related memories, but that emphasis on bite-sized moments in time (many of them specific, others more representational) has the satisfyingly counterintuitive effect of slurring them all together into something unreal,” writes IndieWire (opens in new tab). “As wonderfully recalled as Apollo 10 ½ is, Black’s narration, Stanley’s eventual trip to the Moon, and the dreamlike animation that illustrates it in the same vivid style as real life are unified by an idea that Linklater has carried with him since he first picked up a movie camera: to remember the past is to re-imagine it as well.”
In other words, Apollo 10½ is a nostalgic, rose-tinted love letter to Linklater’s past – and shouldn’t go under your radar. Be sure to catch it on Netflix. And if you’re after more watching recommendations, then make sure to check out the best Netflix movies and best Netflix shows streaming right now.