The Astronaut's Wife

on August 27, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan.
   New Line made the right decision not giving "The Astronaut's Wife" an advance press screening. The best the studio can hope for is some brisk business before the film sinks beneath the weight of critical opinion and word of mouth.
   It's not that it is that bad a film. It was obviously made with great care by experienced writer/rookie director Rick Ravich. It is just that it never reaches the necessary level of menace and foreboding that would enable the audience to become immersed in the plot. Call it sci-fi lite.
   Johnny Depp ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") is Spencer Armacost, an astronaut to whom something mysterious happens on a space walk. Charlize Theron ("Mighty Joe Young") is Mrs. Astronaut, a.k.a. Jillian Armacost, who spends most of the movie trying to figure out just what the heck is going on. Turns out that Spencer's body has been taken over by some alien force who plan to use Jillian as the tall, blonde vessel for breeding the next generation.
   She gets her first inkling during a post-space flight bout of rough and rather distant sex. But it takes him actually offing her sister before the penny finally drops.
   Speaking of the sister, she's played by Clea DuVall ("She's All That") and is the brightest aspect of the movie. Mind you, Ravich gave her all the best lines. "You got Johnny Rocket and I got Throw-Up-On-Yourself Elmo," she complains to her sibling.
   Theron battles gamely with some impossible material but is never really convincing as the agonized spouse with the troubled past. Depp goes from cheery to cold and heartless in a flash. He might well be possessed but you would think that if these aliens were so smart they could have done something about his personality.
   The movie looks and sounds fabulous but by the time the Stepford Wife ending comes around you really don't care.    Starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron. Directed and written by Rick Ravich. Produced by Andrew Lazar. A New Line release. Sci-Fi/Thriller. Rated R for violence, language and a strong scene of sexuality. Running time: 108 min.
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