Producers: Richard Linklater, Mike Blizzard, Tommy Pallotta, Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix   Director: Richard Linklater   Screenplay: Richard Linklater   Cast: Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Josh Wiggins, Sam Chipman, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Danielle Guilbot, Zachary Levi, Glen Powell and Jack Black   Distributor: Netflix

Grade: B+

Richard Linklater has fashioned a charmingly nostalgic collision of memory and imagination in the form of a tall tale about a schoolboy’s journey to the moon, presented through the rotoscope animation the director has used before in “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.”

The film begins with guy named Stan (Jack Black, serving as narrator throughout) recollecting how in 1969, his younger self (Milo Coy), then aged ten and in fourth grade at a Houston area school, was approached by two NASA men (Glenn Powell and Zachary Levi) to accept an assignment of the highest national importance.  It seems that the module built for the planned lunar mission of Apollo 11 turned out a bit smaller than required, and the agency needs a small person—just Stan’s size—to go to the moon in it secretly to prove the viability of the enterprise.  Naturally, Stan, a kid obsessed with sci-fi movies (he diligently tries to describe the wonder of “2001: A Space Odyssey” to a younger, disinterested schoolmate), agrees, and goes into secret training.

At this point, though, the astronaut story is interrupted by a prolonged, highly discursive monologue by Stan describing what it was like to live as a suburban Houston kid in the sixties with a large, loving but sometimes fractious family.  For those of a certain age this rambling forty-five minute portrait of a bygone age, in which the building of the Astrodome jostles with reveries about pop songs and litanies of the network TV shows of the period—along with much else—will be like a time a time capsule that’s been popped open, its effect made more dreamlike by the rotoscoping, applied even to found footage like JFK’s Rice University speech announcing the plan to send a man to the moon, Walter Cronkite’s enthusiastic coverage of the moon landing, and Nixon’s phone call to the astronauts.  Jumping from one topic to another, Stan’s stream-of-conscious recollections is yet another of Linklater’s spot-on memory trips, presented in this case not in terms of period narrative (see “Dazed and Confused” or “Everybody Wants Some!!”) but as the sort of spiel a grandfather might spin for his grandkids while they all wait out a storm, but illustrated.

After that remembrance-of-times-past detour, the film reverts to Stan’s fantastical tale of his moon walk, only to segue into an account of his joining his family in watching the celebrated one that, in this telling, followed his and depended on it.  Groggy from a long day at an amusement park, he falls asleep during the event, and has to be carried to bed by his dad (Bill Wise), who regrets that his son won’t have the memory of having seen such an epochal moment in human history.  But his wife (Lee Eddy) knows better: even though he might have slept through it, she says, he’ll remember having seen it.  And Stan goes her one better: though he slept through it, he remembers having lived it–an incisive observation about how memory often works.

That’s because Stan is a storyteller, like Linklater, and just as filled with wonder and invention.  (Why shouldn’t he be, since they’re one and the same?)  Stan embellishes the role of his father, who works at NASA in an unremarkable job in shipping and receiving, into an important person there, so why wouldn’t he see himself in similarly grandiose terms?  And though the portrait he paints of 1960s suburban life is overall dreamily golden, it doesn’t omit passing reference to the bad things of the time—Vietnam doesn’t go unmentioned.  But the ones that he emphasizes are those that a kid would have found most unsettling, like the injuries he might suffer playing rough games with his neighborhood friends, or the terror that would arise at the thought of punishment by the school principal in an era when paddling was still considered right and proper.

What makes “Apollo 10½” so delicious is the combination of the almost tactile nature of Stan’s memories—the litany of the precise meals his mother regularly prepared, the TV programs (“Dark Shadows,” “It’s About Time”) the kids loved, snippets of the movies they saw—with the hazy, shimmering quality of the rotoscoped images.  Linklater’s authorial voice, embodied drolly by Black, is central here, but his collaborators—production designer Bruce Curtis, costume designer Karl Perkins, animation designer Vincent Bisschop, animation head Tommy Pallotta, effects supervisor Matthijs Joor, and cinematographer Shane Kelly—are instrumental in crafting images that complement them perfectly, and editor Sandra Adair makes them flow effortlessly from subject to subject.

The result is another of Linklater’s easygoing but painstaking recreations of a time gone by, not strictly autobiographical but surely containing elements of his own life.  While more simply genial than “Boyhood,” it shares that film’s DNA, and can also serve as a sort of prequel to “Dazed and Confused” and “Everybody Wants Some!!”  It’s another piece in a body of work that’s itself becoming a cherishable artifact of modern Americana.