‘Space Force’ review: Steve Carell stars in a parody of Netflix that never manages to take off

John Malkovich and Steve Carell in 'Space Force.'

Clearly designed to falsify President Trump’s military project (references to “POTUS” are not specific, but pointed), the series launches Carell as Mark Naird, a four-star general reluctantly torn from his position at the Air Force and placed on top this strange new sixth branch of the army.

Bureaucratic policies are plentiful, including snipers and sharp elbows from other armed services (with the exception of the Coast Guard, which others repeatedly ridicule). The worst thing comes from Naird’s longtime rival, General Kick Grabaston (“The Americans” Noah Emmerich), president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Starched military, Naird regularly clashes with his main scientist dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich, doing what looks like a representation of John Malkovich), an eccentric voice of reason in the midst of all the madness. That chaos extends to Naird’s personal life, forced to part with his wife (Lisa Kudrow, like much of the underutilized talent here) while dealing with an adult daughter (Diana Silvers) who has rather tired problems on her own.

The main problem with “Space Force” is that he is so intent on getting close to everything with an exaggerated arched eyebrow, there is little substance on which to hang the helmet. In this regard, it resembles considerably to “Avenue 5”, HBO’s star satire on a cruise ship in space, which shows many of the same exaggerated excesses, too cute for its own.

As talented as he is, the cartoon character neutralizes Carell’s comic gifts. The show’s ephemeral appeal therefore largely derives from the secondary players, and the series is fully launched, with the late Fred Willard as father of Naird, and Jane Lynch and Patrick Warburton as other military leaders, just to begin with.

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The latter’s banal joke represents much of the best things about the show, which is a subtle recommendation. And while there are some clever moments – see an astronaut’s attempt to coin a landing phrase on the moon that goes wrong – they are too far apart, forgive the expression, in the 10 episodes.

In addition to the challenge of reaching the high goals of the Space Force administration, Naird faces international complications, although it is painfully clear that the United States government is, in this show, its worst enemy.

On paper, “Space Force” would appear to have a lot of factors working in its favor, from its manifested talent to real-life parallels. However, halfway between the drawing board and Netflix’s launch, he has also become his worst enemy.

“Space Force” will premiere on Netflix on May 29.


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