Back in the director's chair (and figuring prominently on screen), Clint Eastwood is not going to be a prime contender for Oscar honours come March. But, although Space Cowboys is clearly no Unforgiven, it's not without its own ticklish charm.
If John Glenn's recent shuttle mission lends the necessary credence to the otherwise implausible premise of OAPs being sent into orbit, Space Cowboys wisely remains a Boy's Own Adventure for the most part - even if the "boys" in question are getting a little long in tooth. Of course, this is the film's greatest strength, proving that its cherished cast of old-timers still have the right stuff when given the chance to openly laugh at themselves and open their hearts.
The film relishes in these moments from the onset - the lads' impossible flirtations with younger women and medical exam fixes - as it follows the sagging butts of Eastwood, Lee Jones, Sutherland and Garner before sending the crew along with an otherwise winning storyline into orbit. Easy to say with hindsight, but Eastwood should have kept this movie earthbound.
The "boys", clearly, are just too old for this game. And they're the first to admit it, with the film's first two-thirds enjoying a hearty laugh at this premise through their self-inflicted predicament as they prepare for their mission.
Those are indeed the most winning moments of Space Cowboys. But rather than follow these themes through to their logical conclusion, Eastwood instead sends the quartet on a space mission which grows to impossibly epic proportions. And although he proceeds to concoct an over-the-top finale in orbit, he misses the dramatic bullseye of men coming to terms with their own mortality - and a society back on Earth ready to dismiss their well-worn hearts.
A winning bittersweet comedy - until Eastwood loses the plot. Space Cowboys has its fair share of comedic and dramatic moments, but ultimately takes itself too seriously when the story exits the stratosphere.