Character-actor god Ron Perlman carries unimaginative drug comedy Moonwalkers whenever its creators fail to follow through on their admirably brazen, Babel-high concept: What if the CIA really did try to pay Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing? Armed with a bottomless cache of deep sighs and tough-guy scowls, Perlman plays Kidman, a PTSD-afflicted government agent hired to make Kubrick film Apollo 11‘s arrival on the moon — a plan that gets upended when a shifty band manager (Harry Potter‘s Rupert Grint) dupes him into hiring a Kubrick impersonator.
Set in an Across the Universe–ified dream version of London during the end of the swinging/mod/psychedelically spaced-out late 1960s, Moonwalkers focuses primarily on Grint’s Jonny, a generic underdog who tries to pay off a local gangster with Kidman’s money. Kidman forces Jonny to help him after he learns that Jonny doesn’t represent Kubrick. But Jonny and his pretentious — and seldom amusing — drug-fueled artist friends push the plot much further along than Kidman does.
That relatively subordinate role allows Perlman the freedom to be Grint’s straight man and stare down kitschy signs of the times, like when he glowers at a coffee table built on top of a Malcolm McLaren–meets-the–Korova Milk Bar style sculpture of a bondage-leather-clad blow-up doll. Perlman is hysterical when Kidman predictably succumbs to the charms of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, as when he trips out on acid and becomes obsessed with a nondescript door handle.
Nothing in Moonwalkers matches Perlman’s performance, but he frequently elevates desperate-to-please gags to stoner-comedy greatness.
Directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
Opens January 15, Village East Cinema
Available on demand