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ASTRONAUT: 2 ½ STARS. “earnest storytelling and nice performances.”

Despite the name “Astronaut,” a new film starring Richard Dreyfuss, is a decidedly earth-bound drama.

Dreyfuss plays Angus, an elderly, retired civil engineer grieving the loss of his late wife. As he prepares to sell the home they shared he stays with daughter Molly (Krista Bridges), son-in-law Jim (Lyriq Bent) and grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence) before taking the next step of moving into a retirement home. In frail health, he senses the end is near but is given a boost when he gets the chance to fulfill a childhood dream courtesy of a contest from billionaire Marcus Brown’s (Colm Feore) Ventura Space Program’s private shuttle launch. It’s a “lottery for someone who thinks big” that will send twelve lucky people into orbit. Angus is too old and too sick, but he has always dreamed of going to space. “People have been looking up at the stars forever,” he says, “and I think it’s always for the same reason. To see where we belong.”

“Astronaut” never quite gets airborne but has its charms courtesy of the straightforward storytelling and nice performances. It’s lovely to see Dreyfuss in a film that allows him to show the character’s humanity while still looking at the stars. It also stirs up nostalgic feelings, like a lo-fi revisit of his character from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He anchors the film, whether he is interacting with his grandson or relating to Len (Graham Greene), a non-verbal resident in the nursing home, in a performance infused with the gravitas of an older person trying to assert his worth.

“Astronaut” makes some obvious choices that prevent it from fully taking flight—a dance sequence at the nursing home is particularly awful—but has enough to say about aging and following your dreams to earn it a look for family audiences.

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