Emma Roberts Gives Her All In Painfully Unfunny Comedy Better Suited For Disney Channel


  • Emma Roberts stars in the disappointing Space Cadet with a weak script and storyline.
  • The movie’s plot feels more suitable for a Disney Channel release, lacking character growth and full of implausible storytelling.
  • Despite Roberts and Tom Hopper’s charming performances, the film’s writing and predictable plot hinder their efforts.

Though having made a name for herself in the early years of her career on Nickelodeon and in teen movies, Emma Roberts has shown a wide diversity of talent onscreen, whether it be as the entertainingly cruel Chanel Oberlin in Scream Queens or the hauntingly compelling Joan in The Blackcoat’s Daughter. It’s this prior range of performances that makes Space Cadet such a disappointing installment for her filmography, with its painfully unfunny script and storyline.

Space Cadet (2024)


Liz W. Garcia

Release Date

July 3, 2024


Liz W. Garcia


Emma Roberts
, Tom Hopper
, Poppy Liu
, Gabrielle Union
, Kuhoo Verma
, Desi Lydic
, Sebastián Yatra
, Sam Robards

Roberts stars in Space Cadet as Rex Simpson, a woman who once dreamed of becoming an astronaut, though had to abandon her offer of a full ride to college when her mother died and she had to care for her father. Following an eye-opening high school reunion, Rex attempts to get into NASA’s astronaut training program, for which her friend forges her cover letter. She’s accepted, leading to a roller coaster ride to keep her lack of requisites a secret and make her dream come true.

Space Cadet Wants To Be Quirky (But Is Generally Annoying)

From its opening montage giving Rex’s backstory to its closing titles, Space Cadet wants to bring a largely quirky and comedic twist to the world of NASA. In spite of writer-director Liz W. Garcia (P-Valley)’s best efforts to create a colorful cast of characters and a fresh approach to the iconic space company, it ultimately results in a group of primarily annoying people and painfully unfunny sequences that feel reminiscent of the Harland Williams-led 1997 Disney movie RocketMan.

One of the more annoying of the characters is Poppy Liu’s Nadine, Rex’s best friend, who is responsible for the protagonist getting into NASA’s training program, but is also stressed as she now has to keep her fake cover letter and resume a secret. As with the movie as a whole, Nadine is meant to be the quirky sidekick to the already quirky Rex, not letting her pregnancy stop her from partying and embodying the Florida vibe of relaxation. While Liu may be playing the part accordingly, the kooky nature of her character is not so much funny as it is dreadful to watch.

Space Cadet’s Plot Is Better Primed For A Disney Channel Release

One of the other major issues facing Space Cadet is its very routine plot, which feels far too befitting of a Disney Channel movie rather than something made for teens and young adults. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far, even in a comedy, and yet the movie frequently asks us to turn our brains off and enjoy the wacky adventure Rex and her friends embark on to become astronauts. Whether it’s racing through their various training steps — complete with slapstick falls on treadmills and close-quarter fart jokes — the movie aims for a number of low-brow jokes that don’t offer character growth.

If the jokes and story progression had been more effective, these implausible points could have been easier to forgive.

The biggest issue on this front is how Space Cadet treats its NASA expert characters. They display no semblance of intelligence to be part of the organization, let alone high-ranking members trusted with training prospective astronauts to fly hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment into space. The fact that Tom Hopper’s Logan is fooled by Nadine pretending to be multiple industry professionals Rex worked with seems impossibly ludicrous, as is the idea that a government agency wouldn’t have called her references well before accepting her application.

If the jokes and story progression had been more effective, these implausible points could have been easier to forgive. Instead, Space Cadet‘s unbelievable beats feel like something more fitting of a kid’s movie in which the target audience is not meant to think deeply of these realities. Yet, with a PG-13 rating, Space Cadet doesn’t seem to know which audience to target.

Emma Roberts & Tom Hopper Certainly Try Their Best

Space Cadet stumbles, but the actors are good in it

Despite the movie’s obvious problems, it’s hard to deny that Emma Roberts and Tom Hopper do their best to make Space Cadet a generally charming ride to watch. Hopper, best known for his work in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and Starz’s Black Sails, has rarely explored the world of comedy, and he shows a generally strong sense of timing and leaning into the goofier antics of the movie. Whether going along with Nadine’s attempts to fool Logan or enjoying Rex’s colorful personality shaking up the halls of NASA, Hopper does a great job of giving a believable performance.

Roberts, who is also onboard Space Cadet as an executive producer, similarly relishes the goofy heights of her leading role, keeping the energy high in every scene of the movie, even when she’s at her lowest. One of the better scenes in the movie highlighting this is her unique way of bringing the group of candidates together in one of their most harrowing moments in training, in which she nicely blends the Florida-driven humor of her character with a genuine sense of care for her fellow trainees.

Despite Roberts and Hopper’s best efforts, though, Space Cadet is ultimately an absolute mess of lackluster writing and predictable plotting to give them any kind of good material to work with. While I could argue that comedies don’t have to be very deep or intellectually structured to entertain, this one certainly needed far more of a brain to avoid feeling like the Disney Channel knock-off it is.

Space Cadet begins streaming on Prime Video Thursday, July 4.

Space Cadet (2024) - Poster

Space Cadet (2024)

A young woman with no formal training unexpectedly finds herself in a space program after a series of fortunate events. As she navigates rigorous training and high-stakes challenges, she must prove her capabilities to skeptical teammates and instructors.


  • Emma Roberts and Tom Hopper are enjoyable to watch.

  • The jokes are painfully unfunny and unoriginal.
  • The story feels incredibly implausible and befitting of a Disney Channel release.
  • Many of the supporting characters are more grating than quirky.

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