Christopher Winterbauer’s future set “Moonshot” is built around a familiar, hard-to-resist premise, usually found in sitcoms, but with roots in 1930s screwball comedies: A man and a woman who don’t get along have to get along. pretending to be romantically involved in view of an elaborate ruse, the progress of which gradually brings them closer together until they truly fall in love.
The husband is Walt (Cole Sprouse), an unsuspecting, accident-prone barista longing to visit Mars, and the wife is Sophie (Lana Condor), a concerned Ph.D. candidate himself on his way to Mars. When Walt hides in Sophie’s space shuttle, he takes on the identity of her old friend Calvin (Mason Gooding), and manages to entangle her in the deception. The journey to the red planet takes a month. Walt and Sophie must spend it sharing rooms, maintaining amorous pretense and (of course) exchanging the kinds of witty banter and increasingly lustful looks that are the basis of any budding relationship in a rom-com.
The romance proceeds as it always does in these types of films, with the interstellar setting contributing little to innovation. That is good. It’s a solid, versatile trope, no less appealing because it’s predictable, and with the right balance of flirtatious antagonism and latent sexual tension, the payoff is certainly satisfying. Sprouse and Condor’s fraught, teasing dynamics – Sprouse the bumbling doofus with a riotous charisma, Condor the excitable perfectionist who was reluctantly charmed by him – bring out their natural chemistry. Sprouse plays it a bit broad, sometimes from endearing to wacky. But Condor is perfect, and Winterbauer directs with a light, playful touch, giving the film an energetic and lively sexy energy.
Rated PG-13 for mild language and sexual innuendo. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch HBO Max.