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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Apollo 10 1/2: Review

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood Synopsis: Stan (Jack Black) narrates stories of his life as a 10-year-old boy (Milo Coy) in 1969 Houston, weaving tales of nostalgia with a fantastical account of a journey to the moon.

Growing up in the late 1960s, Stan finds himself in a period of great intrigue. While the harsh realities of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement wage on, Stan finds himself lost amidst the endless possibilities of space as the United States pursues a trip to the ephemeral moon.

The juxtaposition of the era’s wide-eyed hopes and impending doom takes center stage in Richard Linklater’s latest animated offering, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. Linklater and his shaggy sensibility endure some inconsistencies, but the beloved auteur creates another affectionate time capsule of the adolescent experience.

Few paint a picture of memory and experience as vividly as Linklater. The writer/director’s signature shift away from traditional narrative devices allows Apollo 10 1/2 to maintain a breezy airiness that feels tailor-made to adolescence. From the multitude of family idiosyncrasies to days frolicking in the streets with friends, Linklater embeds audiences in our protagonist’s day-to-day experiences. Each detail and personal reflection radiates such sincerity and warmth, conjuring the type of reflective spirit that will leave most viewers looking back at their own youthful experiences.

It’s also a joy to see Linklater return to his distinctive rotoscoping animation style, a dream-like presentation that bolstered previous Linklater gems like A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. Rotoscoping’s lack of refined details oddly makes for a more immersive experience, with Linklater and his skilled team of animations utilizing the craft to draw from the emotions of each warmly-expressed memoir rather than creating picturesque reenactments. Akin to the Saturday morning cartoons Stan idolizes, the style offers boundless expressions of emotions and memory that fit Linklater’s nostalgic sensibility like a glove.

Apollo 10 1/2 draws more emotional resonance than your typical coming-of-age offering (looking at you, Belfast). The decision to contrast Stan’s experiences with narration from his older self helps paint a detailed picture of the era and the character’s now-aged perspective. As the space age captures the interest of Stan and America alike, Stan’s aged self – voiced with a balance of precision and wistful melancholy by Jack Black – finds himself drawn back to an experience that represented the best of youth and its endless optimism. Linklater’s descent into nostalgia draws some unevenness in its repetitive structure, but the helmer endures the few narrative inconsistencies through his sheer sense of sincerity.

Apollo 10 1/2 finds Richard Linklater operating comfortably in his nostalgia-glazed wheelhouse. Fans of the auteur will be more than happy to dive into another freewheeling descent into his youthful experiences.


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