Danny Pearson is like many 12-year-old boys: He’s interested in magic, computers, and basketball. The difference is Danny was born paralyzed from the waist down and spends his days in a wheelchair. The transformation he undergoes to overcome his disability is the subject of Walking on Air, a superb WonderWorks production based on an idea by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.
Lynn Redgrave plays Mrs. Hepp, Danny’s eccentric but inspiring science teacher, with just the right degree of zaniness and enthusiasm. When she asks Danny (Jordan Marder) to define gravity, he replies somberly, ”Gravity is my enemy.” But soon he realizes that his handicap would be neutralized by the weightlessness of space. Thus he decides to do something no other disabled person has ever done: walk in space. His parents adamantly oppose the idea, as do the government officials in charge of the astronaut-training program. Danny, however, is undeterred and devises and executes a headline-grabbing plan to change their minds.
Marder, who is not disabled, convincingly conveys all the emotions of a boy frustrated by his physical limitations. James Treuer and Katheryn Trainor are equally compelling as Danny’s best friends, Jason and Emily. Their performances are complemented by David Frank’s affecting score, which captures the unfolding drama of Danny’s quest and the majesty of space. Parents certainly can let their kids watch this uplifting film alone…but why let them have all the fun? A