The Astronaut Farmer. (PG) The fourth film from Mark and Michael Polish will very likely alienate fans of their earlier work, who will wonder what became of their rueful inscrutability and scoff at the cornpone, heart-on-the-sleeve sentiment that permeates every second of this latest. But those who do turn up their noses at this story, of a former astronaut (played by Billy Bob Thornton, blessedly shirking off the drunken shitheel parts that have defined his filmography of late) who still dreams of space travel and inspires his family with his indefatigable spirit, will miss out, because The Astronaut Farmer remains very much in line with the Polish brothers' earlier work. It's still a fairy tale, only for grade-school children for whom such aphorisms as "If we don't have our dreams, we have nothing" are not hackneyed greeting-card sentiments but inspiration. There is no denying it: This is male-weepy, Field of Dreams territory, a tale of a son risking farm and family in order to escape the specter of his daddy's failures. But this movie, like its softball predecessor, works precisely because it's bereft of modern cinema's cynicism that above-it-all sneer that permeates most of the best-intentioned kiddie films made more to hold parents' attention than their children's. (Robert Wilonsky) CMP, CGX, RON, SP, WO
The Number 23. (R) Reviewed in this issue.
Reno 911!: Miami. (R) Norbit has nothing on Niecy Nash, who proudly parades her prosthetic ass along Miami Beach, lowering oceanside property values with each thunderous step. The joke here is that the snooty pastel metropolis needs to be taken down a few rungs by Nash and her law-enforcement crew from the Comedy Central show Reno 911! (basically a lampoon of Cops, only dumber, if that's possible). The series regulars including director Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Kerri Kenney-Silver accomplish this task with signature incompetence. They are levelers whose fathom line never hits bottom. With the city's regular police force trapped inside a quarantined convention, our gang from Reno confronts backyard gators, a bad Scarface imitator (Paul Rudd), and even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in a good-natured cameo. Stretched out (barely) to 84 minutes, these vignettes seem more like an assault on filmmaking than municipal probity. The show excels with its short squad-car bursts of random inanity; here, the plot somehow involving Patton Oswalt's corrupt city official feels like a dime bag tossed aside by a fleeing perp. Fans won't mind, though the material would've worked better on TV, with blacked-out breasts and bleeped-out dialogue. Garant does attempt one ambitious long-take sequence along a motel breezeway, each window a sad tableau of lovelorn off-duty cops. It's like Jacques Tati with drunken, desperate masturbation. (Brian Miller) ARN, CGX,CC12, DP, EQ, J14, RON, SP, STCH, WO