This is a smarter-than-it-sounds sci-fi romcom, the kind Gen-Z kids would presumably dig. It sends a seemingly mismatched boy-girl couple – poor, hapless but good-hearted Walt (Cole Sprouse, from Riverdale) and super-competent but neurotic swot Sophie (Lana Condor from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) into space following their respective romantic partners who have already flown ahead to a much-coveted colony on Mars. So while the overall project is a heterosexual space-rom, along the way there are sprightly touches: thoughtful world-building (Earth, as in Wall-E has become one huge toxic garbage dump); snarky jabs at billionaire space entrepreneurs (Zach Braff co-stars as a capricious Elon Muskian tech overlord); and a cute lesbian couple with commitment issues (Cameron Esposito and Sunita Deshpande).

Most welcome of all is the generous sprinkling of good one-liners thanks to screenwriter Max Taxe’s witty script, solid direction from Christopher Winterbauer, and a cast with nippy comic timing. Sprouse, who gets the lion’s share of screen time and most of the best lines, represents a particularly likable non-threatening-boy lead: himbo-handsome but not too much, pitching his performance right in the sweet spot between goofy and vulnerable. His Walt has wanted to join the space programme for years but has failed more than 30 times. When he falls in love with Ginny (Emily Rudd) the night before she flies to Mars, he decides with dumb romcom hero logic that the smartest thing to do would be to stow away on the next flight and force new acquaintance Sophie to help keep up the pretence that he’s her boyfriend Calvin (Mason Gooding) who’s actually already there.

Arguably Taxe’s script relies a little too much on jokes about helpful yet sinister robots, like the passive-aggressive one named Gary that works with Walt in a coffee shop and keeps threatening to get him sacked. Mind you, one of them has a pretty funny line about how the consequences of forcing a boy and a girl human to share a room is “either one more human or one less!”

Moonshot is released on 25 April on digital platforms.



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