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Volume 91, Issue 26
Wednesday, October 15, 1997
Country Club road
Rocket Man soars
By Dan Yurman
As the weather becomes increasingly cooler and piles of leaves are everywhere, we are all reminded of one thing mid-terms. In these times of panic, there are very few ways of relieving stress (at least, very few that are non-toxic). One of those ways is to get completely silly. Just throw every ounce of sanity and reality out the window for a few short hours and become a complete idiot.
If this is what works for you, then Rocket Man, the latest Disney instalment, is your kind of film. It is, without a doubt, the most foolish, ridiculous, asinine film made in a very long time. What saves it from straight-to-video release is the film knows it's silly and plays on that fact through the enormous talent of the actors. This is also what saves Rocket Man from being a horrible film and turns it into an enjoyable one.
The film stars Canadian-born comic Harland Williams as Fred, a socially and borderline mentally-challenged computer programmer who wrote the landing program for the NASA-manned capsule that is going to land on Mars. When one of the astronauts gets hurt, the man in charge of the mission suggests Fred should be trained for flight, since he knows how the program works.
The rest of the film focuses on Fred's training, his mission to Mars and his return home. These sequences are highlighted by great slapstick scenes which defy the laws of physics and (of course) scenes involving flatulence, laxatives and vomiting which are all essential for a silly film.
One aspect of the film that is surprisingly clever and completely unexpected is the similarities it draws to the 1995 hit Apollo 13. The quite obvious parallel throughout the story and the plot are creative and intelligent and only after the film is over does one put it together and have a chuckle.
It is Harland Williams, however, who really makes the film funny. If one can possibly imagine Don Knotts (Mr. Furley from Three's Company) on acid, it would be Harland Williams. His facial expressions, tone of voice and all-around ability to make himself look like the world's biggest buffoon carries this movie. He works well with his antithesis, astronaut Wild Bill (William Sadler) who takes space travel far too seriously and eventually gets him to loosen up. Williams' ability to keep the comedy opposite such a straight man is really going to open the eyes of producers and directors. We will definitely be seeing more of him.
As for this film, however, it probably won't stay in the theatres for very long which is unfortunate, since mid-term season isn't over and finals are just around the corner. There really isn't much substance to Rocket Man, nor is there much intelligence, but the completely mindless comedy is sure to take your mind off of the real world and into space.
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