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'Crater' Review: Joyride on the Moon
Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Billy Barratt, McKenna Grace and Scott Mescudi star in an above-average adventure, directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, now streaming on Disney Plus.
Now Streaming: Fly me to the moon.
What kid has not looked up into the sky and wondered about Earth's closest satellite? Flip that around, and imagine a lunar colony on the moon in the year 2257, where blue-collar workers mine on 20-year contracts, with the promise held out that they might earn a place on a rocketship to the planet Omega, said to be like Earth, only better.
Having recently suffered the loss of his beloved father in a mine accident, young Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) is informed that his father's benefits will cover Caleb's 75-year trip in suspended animation to Omega, whether he wants to go or not. Oh, and the next flight will depart in just three days, during which the Lunar Colony will be locked down during a predicted meteor storm.
It's a blow to the grieving Caleb, who's been left an orphan in the care of the Lunar Colony authorities. (His mother died some seven years before.) He must say goodbye to his three longtime buddies and pals, namely, his best friend Dylan (Billy Barratt), his protective friend Marcus (Thomas Boyce), and his goofy friend Borney (Orson Hong)
Knowing of Caleb's long held desire to visit a certain crater, where his father, Michael (Scott Mescudi), promised to take him one day, his friends decide to help him make that dream come true before he departs the moon forever. To make that happen, Dylan convinces Addison (McKenna Grace), newly-arrived from Earth to be with her recently-divorced science-whiz father, to help them gain access to a giant rover, some distance away.
And they're off!
The young people have arrived at an age when they are growing up, but they are not yet in the grip of anxiety, sexuality, and other adult concerns.
They are thinking like adults, though, and are open emotionally, able to tap into the mournful aspects of remembrance of things past, fully exercising their physical capabilities with abandon.
Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, working from an original screenplay by John Griffin, taps into a similar vein as Joe Dante's classic Explorers (1985). Nora Takass Ekberg's production design makes the Lunar Colony feel like Earth and simultaneously out of this world, the costumes and sets familiar yet pushed to extremes of nostalgia and imagineering, all expertly and colorfully captured by director of photography Jas Shelton.
Really, it's a small story that features wonderfully nuanced performances by the five young actors, especially McKenna Grace, as an intensely curious, extremely sharp young girl who more than holds her own against the four boys, whose protective bubble of friendship bends a bit to allow her into their warm fellowship.
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Delicately yet surely, Crater earns its way into the heart as a movie that is aimed at young people without ever talking down to them. Instead, it treats the audience as equals, which is an incredibly rare thing nowadays. [Disney Plus]