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NASA has a problem. An antiquated Russian satellite is threatening to enter the atmosphere because the guidance system has gone haywire. It's up to veteran NASA team leader Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) to fix the problem. Unfortunately only Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), the person who designed it, can do the job.
Gerson is reluctant to ask Corvin because they have not been on the friendliest of terms ever since Gerson grounded the former test pilot of the U.S. military's 1950's X-2 program due to reckless behavior. This decision forced Corvin to explore a career in space systems engineering.
Now retired, Corvin is skeptical when he hears the request, and can't help wondering how the system he invented for Skylab got used on a Russian bird. But he also sees the opportunity of a lifetime. Corvin agrees to help under one condition -- that he and his three cohorts from the X-2 program (who were grounded as well), get to go up in the shuttle together. Gerson, who has other fears related to this mission, agrees if they meet NASA's tough physical requirements. He's obviously banking on them not succeeding.
It takes a fair amount of imagination to believe this team, including crop duster Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones), minister Tank Sullivan (James Garner), and roller coaster designer Jerry O'Nell (Donald Sutherland), who have only piloted amusement park rides and Cessnas in the past three decades, will be ready for space with only a few weeks of training. Perhaps writer Ken Kaufman relied too heavily on his past experience with science fiction (he penned Muppets From Space ). And with Eastwood's Wild West influence, these "astronauts" look as comfortable in space as Fozzie Bear playing Sheriff Will Kane in High Noon.
This aside, many teens and adults might still enjoy the humorous efforts of these cowboys getting ready for their mission if it wasn't for dozens of profanities and sexual innuendos and a brief scene of rear male nudity. These elements may have parents pushing the abort button before this movie even gets off the ground.
Space Cowboys is rated PG-13:
Cast: Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland
Studio: 2000 Warner Bros.