I propose “heartwarming” as a new genre for American cinema. This genre will be shot only in the golden twilight of the magic hour and will star mostly male, mostly middle age, mostly blonde actors like Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner and their ilk. These pictures will feature nostalgia, baseball, diners, old movie theaters, fishing and other sundry Americana.

The Astronaut Farmer fits into some, if not most, of this new category. Billy Bob Thornton is unfortunately miscast as the singular, independent thinker, Charles Farmer, with strangely drawn on eyebrows that give him an air of Eddie Munster.

Also too skinny and cerebral looking to be the All-American Man, Thornton projects a brand of anarchy that fits like a square peg in the round hole that is the Average American Male. Still Thornton, as Farmer, a man driven by passion and perhaps boredom to build a rocket, does embody the drive and quirkiness needed for such a venture.

And poor Virginia Madsen, who was finally “found” in Sideways after years of obscurity in the B movie wasteland and given her shot. After her rebirth and Oscar nomination … Firewall and The Astronaut Farmer? Why don’t women ever get to be the dreamers in these films?

The Astronaut Farmer tells the story of Farmer – an actual farmer – whose dream is to build this rocket, which he does at the expense of just about everything else in his family. Of course, the house – about to be foreclosed – and the groceries – credit card declined – will have to wait while Farmer fulfills his fantasy of going out into space.

Farmer would rather die and leave his family penniless than fail at his dream. Am I the only one who finds this all a bit juvenile? Are the Polish Brothers trying to validate their choices as filmmakers (Northfork, Jackpot, Twin Falls Idaho)?

Maybe a different leading man would have done a better job of getting me on board. Or maybe Ms. Madsen would have triumphed over the odds as an unlikely feminist, and putting an alternative – golden-haired female – spin on the genre. As it is, I just didn’t care enough.

Grade: C

The Astronaut Farmer is currently available.