REVIEW: ‘Space Force’ aims for the stars, but falls short of stellar

REVIEW: ‘Space Force’ aims for the stars, but falls short of stellar
Steve Carrell and John Malkovich in 'Space Force.' (Netflix)
Short Url
Updated 17 July 2020
Follow

REVIEW: ‘Space Force’ aims for the stars, but falls short of stellar

REVIEW: ‘Space Force’ aims for the stars, but falls short of stellar
  • New comedy from Greg Daniels and Steve Carell lands some zingers, but ultimately misfires

AMMAN: On paper, there’s a lot to love about “Space Force.” It’s created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels (of US “The Office” fame), boasts an incredible ensemble cast (including Carell, John Malkovich, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O Yang and supporting turns from Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton and Noah Emmerich), and a premise with enough real-world relevance for stinging satire.
Carell stars as Mark Naird, a career military man who has recently been promoted to four-star general. Unfortunately for Naird, rather than being appointed the head of his beloved Air Force, he is ordered to set up Space Force — the passion project of the (never named but oft-lampooned) US president. Naird is teamed with head scientist Adrian Mallory (Malkovich) and an array of eccentric experts, and tasked with getting American boots back on the moon.
Sadly, the show doesn’t make the most of the opportunities presented by this attractive opening premise. Though there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the sending up of the current US administration is, at times, extremely clever, “Space Force” veers from slapstick parody to satirical subtlety too wildly and often to ever get a proper handle on what the series is shooting for.
Naird is the perfect example. The protagonist wobbles from bumblingly inept (insisting on using a chimpanzee to conduct complex repairs in outer space) to craftily capable (pushing for a scheduled successful launch despite protestations from the scientists) with no discernible pattern or reasoning. Carell plays Naird with gruff rigidity (hiding a more sensitive, moralistic side of course) and is inherently watchable, and Malkovich is brilliant, stealing every scene he’s in. There are spectacular special effects — no tightened purse strings for an all-star comedy show in the Netflix model, it seems — and some extremely funny asides. But it’s all thrown together with little apparent thought or structure. Actors such as Kudrow are barely used, while tried-and-tested repeated gags (many propelled by Naird’s hapless secretary, played by Don Lake) wear thin pretty quickly.
“Space Force” has all the ingredients for a great comedy show: a timely setup, a brilliant team, and the backing of a major network. But there remain some significant kinks that should have been ironed out.