Like Buzz Aldrin hopping across the moon in zero gravity, director Clare Lewins floats through the space station's history, landing on happy memories and gently leaping over the trickier subjects. This makes it a very different space documentary than many viewers may have seen before, about the mystery and danger of the moon and Mars, aliens and Apollo. Decidedly an expression of joy, The Wonderful features astronauts and cosmonauts avoiding edge-of-the-seat details in favor of a friendly take on what it's like to live in outer space. So when Sergey Volkov, the son of a well-known cosmonaut, talks about how shocked his parents were to learn that he'd applied to be part of Russia's space program because he'd grown up with an inside view, it makes you wonder what he's not telling us. Unavoidable subjects, like 9/11 and the space shuttle Columbia disaster, are covered, with revelations many of us have likely never thought about, but the film orbits around any deep expressions of pain. That lack of sensationalism helps make the movie more appropriate for a wider, younger audience, but, if we're being honest, it also makes it drag.
This is a chat, with astronauts telling their personal yarns. And while there's certainly magnificent footage of Earth from up above, there may not be enough to keep some kids engaged. Lewins tries to solve that problem, lobbing hooks to kids so that they can connect with the material. Astronauts talk about their own childhood dreams that led to them living among the stars, and Jamey Coleman shares what it was like at age 9 to watch his mom, Cady Coleman, get in a rocket and leave the planet for half a year. And flight engineer Samantha Cristoforetti, who lived on the space station from 2014 to 2015, helps viewers to see the wonder in The Wonderful: Despite her deep scientific knowledge, the Italian astronaut is still in awe of all she sees in the universe, expressing that feeling in poetic terms. Still, the kid-focused nuggets are a little bit too few and far between. But the docu's ultimate purpose, which it executes on very well, is to prove that we can all get along and accomplish greatness together. This informative film offers an excellent example of perpetual, peaceful teamwork, and that's great for kids to witness and absorb. Just be ready for that warm coziness to translate into drowsiness.