A rancher builds a rocket he plans to launch and he has to fight the bank, the government, and all the nay-sayers in order to succeed. Billy Bob Thorton plays the lead character of Charles Farmer. He works for years on building a rocket in his barn. The townsfolk think he is crazy. He is behind in his mortgage and the bank forecloses on his ranch. He gets mad and throws a rock through the bank window. The Sheriff forces him to go see a psychologist, Nurse Good (played by Julie White) who is an old girlfriend. She thinks he is crazy. Charles collects his kids and pulls his son Sheppard (played by Max Thieriot) from school to help him. He plans to launch within thirty days. The FBI comes to the ranch. The tell him it is illegal to buy rocket fuel. They threaten to take his undocumented ranch hand if he does not cooperate. They don't charge him with a crime, but they put him under investigation. Charles goes to see his lawyer. He tells the lawyer he applied to the FAA for a permit, but they never responded. The media find out about it and it causes a media frenzy. It makes worldwide news. The media makes fun of him and his family. This upsets his wife Audrey (played by Virginia Madsen) when the media call his family a cult and not a normal family. Charles says he will have to show them they are as normal as anyone. He takes his family out to the fair. He rents a rocket ship carnival ride for his young daughter to take back to the ranch.
Col. Doug Masterson (played by Bruce Willis), a former astronaut, who is a friend of Charles comes to visit. He is impressed with the rocket, but tells him they will not allow him to launch. Charles' family supports him no matter what the outcome. The history of Charles is explained. Charles was in the astronaut program but he had to come home to help his family, when his father committed suicide. Col. Masterson invites Charles to ride on the Shuttle if he will give up plans to launch. Charles declines saying he does not want to hitch a ride when he has his own rocket. The FAA calls a hearing. Col. Doug Masterson is on the panel. They ask Charles how do they know he is not building a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Charles says because if he was, they would not find it. Child Protective Services threatens Charles' wife about taking away her kids. Charles says since he was a kid he believed he could do anything. He still believes it. The FAA Chief tells him in the bathroom of the hearing they will fire missiles at his ranch if he attempts to launch. His lawyer hears this and says they would not do it and there is no law to stop him from launch.
Charles and his wife have a fight about losing the farm, but her father Grandpa Hal (played by Bruce Dern) supports Charles and tells him it is a marvel Charles has his whole family dreaming with him. The family always play a game at the dinner table about going to the moon. Charles get an idea to sell advertising on the rocket to raise the money to help his family. He visits the local merchants, but gets little support because they worry he will die in the attempt so they want no part of it. Grandpa Hal dies. The FAA stalls on giving their ruling. Charles figures out how to make his own rocket fuel out of kerosene and other components. There is only a week before they lose the ranch to the bank. Charles launches. The rocket lifts a few feet in the air, then loses balance and fires sideways. It flies across the ground. Everyone jumps out of the way. Charles is ejected in the space capsule which tumbles across the land. Charles' wife rescues him from the crash. He is still alive, but badly injured. They take him to the hospital. When Charles wakes, he tells his wife he knows he is stupid. She is just happy he is still alive.
The inheritance from Audrey's father is more than enough to save the ranch from foreclosure. Audrey encourages Charles to build another rocket with the money she got from her dad. He builds another rocket. He puts himself through rigorous training just like a real astronaut. They get a different kind of fuel that will burn evenly and not cause a failure like the first launch. The FBI gets information Charles is buying rocket fuel. The FBI chases a man in Charles' truck, but it is only the ranch hand. The FBI goes to the ranch to arrest Charles. Charles launches before they can get there. The rocket goes straight up. The town goes crazy with excitement. Col. Masterson and the people at NASA command center applaud. The FAA chief is furious. The FAA falsely denies the launch has occurred. Charles rocket makes it into orbit. He experiences weightlessness. He passes a communication satellite and loses radio contact with his family. The electronics on the rocket shut down. The lights go off. None of the instruments work. Instead of the planned single orbit, without power he will need to wait up to twelve to fifteen orbits for the trajectory to allow him to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and may run out of oxygen. Charles gets the electronics working again on the ninth orbit and makes re-entry before he runs out of oxygen. He comes down near enough to the ranch, so they can get to him by truck. The family races to the landing site. He lands unharmed. The family finds him in the desert. They go have a pizza to celebrate. Charles is interviewed on Jay Leno as the credit rolls. Even the FBI agents are happy for him.
Best part of story, including ending:
This story is about having a dream and not letting it go, no matter what challenges come up. It is wonderful Charles has the courage to make the attempt.
Best scene in story:
The best scene is when Audrey, Charles' wife, gives him the support he needs to build another rocket for a second attempt. It is a very encouraging a wife could support her husbands dreams so much.
Opinion about the main character:
Charles is the all-American hero, a rugged individualist, a dreamer, and yet a man who made his dreams come true. He is a great character.