Film Review: SPACEMAN (USA 2016)

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Spaceman Poster
Story of former MLB pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee following his release by the Montreal Expos.


Brett Rapkin


Brett Rapkin

SPACEMAN is the biographical film on former Major League baseball pitcher, Bill Lee (Josh Duhamal from TRANSFORMERS) nicknamed SPACEMAN.  Lee is given the nickname for his drug use and hence constantly being ‘spaced out’. 

The film is written and directed by Brett Rapkin.  SPACEMAN is not the first film Rapkin has made of baseball celebrity eccentric Bill Lee.  He made the documentary on Lee SPACEMAN: A BASEBALL ODYSSEY in 2006, a film much better than this one.

This new Bill Lee film made in 2016 took 2 years for its release.  The question is the film’s target audience.  Who would likely be interested in watching Lee’s biography  He is not super famous or super talented though he can pitch very well on a good day.  Non-sports fans like myself have not interest in watching a film on Lee, and neither I guess of many baseball fans either.  Being executively produced by Ron Shelton who directed Kevin Costner in BILL DURHAM, one can assume the film financiers are counting on all baseball fans (and maybe the other peripheral sports fans) to be the target audience.  The trouble is that Bill Lee is not really a winning character.  Lee is more a troublemaker and a loser that no one waned to hire or to be on their team.

The film first shows Lee making pancakes for breakfast.  He sprinkles green stuff on them, so that they end up as marijuana pancakes.  The film follows the man as he also gets drunk, and high and often!  But he stands up for his baseball mates, to the point that he gets let go, in one rare but very hilarious scene with his manager/boss.  He is now out of the major league.  The man loves baseball and is willing to go into the minor league to keep playing.  Hoping to get hired by other clubs, or be selected by talent scouts, he never ever makes good again.  The film reveals one major truth about baseball – it is a business.  No businessman wants to hire a player who has a drug problem.  That is a bad business decision.  Lee ends up losing his family too.

With the above bad stuff going on for Lee, the same goes for the movie.  The movie does not have any upside, except for comedic moments.  The segment where the audiences is supposed to be on Lee’s side, when he convinces his team to just loosen up and get high, works against the film’s favour.  The audience is not on Lee’s side but sees the problem in his actions.

The only positive thing about the biography appears to be Josh Duhamel who is delivering a fine performance regardless of how the film turns out.  Duhamel is sufficiently spirited in the role and able to elicit sympathy from the audience for his character’s poor behaviour. 

SPACEMAN ends up a let down just as the Bill Lee character that it portrays.  That might have been the film’s aim, but it turns out not to be a very entertaining watch.



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