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Rocket Man

(This review originally appeared in the October 9-15, 1997 Long Island Voice.)

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Rocket Man isn’t rocket science, but it’s silly fun. Done in the tradition of Disney’s live action kid movies like Freaky Friday and The Computer Wore Sneakers, Rocket Man is also owes quite a bit to the sort of silly, mildly gross humor boys usually like.

Fred Z. Randall (Harland Williams) is probably the unlikeliest astronaut NASA has ever sense, but he’s their best choice when the third member of the first manned Mars mission is injured a few months before launch. Fred’s qualifications are described later in the movie as, only a real genius or a total idiot could pull this off — luckily, he’s both.

The plot isn’t terribly important, but it basically consists of Fred having to prove himself, getting to Mars and then saving the day — of course — when the Martian wind storms arrive too soon. Really the plot is just an excuse to hang on various bits of mimicry and silly, usually physical jokes that often involve vomiting, farts, sneezing, etc. Like I said, young boys will love it. The kids in the audience roared with laughter, as did a many parents. Yet, because it’s Disney, the jokes never quite crossed the line from somewhat gross to grotesque.

Williams is amusing and does good impressions of both the Cowardly Lion and Jiminey Cricket. Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy) is good as the obligatory female team member who doesn’t approve of Fred but eventually goes soft on him. William Sadler as star astronaut "Wild Bill" Overbeck is the typical authority figure who doesn’t think Fred should be on the mission — until one of Fred’s predictions proves to be accurate.

Rocket Man won’t ever be a classic, but it’s the sort of totally kid-safe movie fare Hollywood — even Disney — stopped making for quite awhile, which was a mistake. Kids need movies, too. And as long as there will be little boys, there will be an appreciative audience for fart jokes.

A Walt Disney Pictures release. Directed by Stuart Gillard.


Review 1997 Long Island Voice. Accompanying photographs  1997 Walt Disney.