Now here’s a pairing I didn’t know I wanted to see until I saw it: Clay Morrow from “Sons of Anarchy” and Ronald Weasley from the “Harry Potter” movies in a trippy 1960s satire in which Stanley Kubrick is recruited to fake the moon landing for the United States government.
Well, it’s not a time travel movie, so the characters of Clay and Ronald aren’t in “Moonwalkers,” but it’s still pretty great to see the craggy-faced, boom-voiced Ron Perlman teamed up with the rascally Rupert Grint in director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet’s cheerfully insane, comically violent, often confounding, sometimes tedious but ultimately entertaining trip through the looking glass.
Perlman’s deadpan, rock-of-granite persona is put to perfect use in his role as Kidman, a burnt-out CIA operative prone to violent outbursts prompted by Vietnam War flashbacks.
It’s 1969. Just when Kidman thinks he’s been tossed on the scrap heap, he gets the assignment of a lifetime. Unconvinced the Apollo 11 mission will be a success, the U.S. government has hatched a backup plan: They’ll send Kidman to England, where he’ll enlist the help of the legendary Stanley Kubrick to film a phony moon landing.
After all, if Kubrick can make space seem so real in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” surely he can create a fake moon landing. What could possibly go wrong?
Grint plays Jonny, a failing rock band manager who cons Kidman into believing he can broker a meeting with Kubrick, only it’s not the real Kubrick, it’s Jonny’s roommate Leon (a very funny Robert Sheehan) impersonating Kubrick as if Peter Sellers were playing Kubrick, and if you’re confused by that — welcome to “Moonwalkers.”
As the plan falls to pieces before it even becomes a plan, Kidman has no choice but to team up with Jonny to use a fake Kubrick to stage the fake moon-landing movie, and if it doesn’t work, they’re both dead. As in killed.
Director Bardou-Jacquet and screenwriter Dean Craig are clearly huge fans of Kubrick’s, from the faux-Kubrick character to the references to “2001,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Lolita,” and I’m sure I missed a few nods.
Bardou-Jacquet’s style also pays homage to the films of Guy Ritchie, and the numerous scenes involving copious drug use and orgiastic group encounters are reminiscent of period-piece films such as “Head.” (At times the “outrageous” sex-and-drugs element is utterly predictable. It would have been an upset if Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” DIDN’T appear on the soundtrack.)
About two-thirds of the way through, “Moonwalkers” loses sight of the moon-landing story and gets sidetracked with too-long scenes of the characters getting really stoned — reminding us once again that nearly every time we get a “everyone gets effed up” scene, it’s funnier and crazier to the characters than it is to the audience.
Some conspiracy theorists actually believe the CIA employed Kubrick to stage the moon landing. (After all, seeing as how the Earth is flat, it would be impossible for us to fly to the moon!) Of course, “Moonwalkers” isn’t really interested in exploring the idiocy of such a conspiracy in any real depth. This is a cheeky, madcap romp, with exaggerated views of 1960s American stereotypes about Brits and vice versa, featuring terrific performances by Perlman and Grint, a most unlikely and most likable buddy duo.
Alchemy presents a film directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacque and written by Dean Craig. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (for strong bloody violence, graphic nudity, plentiful drug use and language). Opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque and on demand.