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"ROCKET MAN"
(1997) (Harland Williams, Jessica Lundy) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Mild Mild None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate None Mild Minor Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Minor Minor Mild Minor


QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A brilliant, but screwball civilian is picked to join the first manned space mission to Mars.
PLOT:
Fred Randall (HARLAND WILLIAMS) has always dreamed about being an astronaut. A bumbling rocket scientist, he gets his chance when an upcoming team member is injured and NASA desperately needs a replacement. While he doesn't have any flight experience, he did program the shuttle's computer system, and after passing the required physical tests, he's selected for the trip. This doesn't sit well with mission commander Captain "Wild Bill" Overbeck (WILLIAM SADLER) who can't believe they've picked such a buffoon, but mission specialist Julie Ford (JESSICA LUNDY) doesn't seem to mind. Accompanied by Ulysses, a trained chimpanzee, the crew sets off on their eight-month mission to Mars. Along the way, Fred's bumbling ways irritate Overbeck, but the crew finally arrives on Mars, but then must quickly leave when a dangerous sandstorm approaches. With the help of NASA official Bud Nesbit (BEAU BRIDGES), who was blamed for the Apollo 13 mishap, the crew manages to make it safely back into space for their trip back home.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Teens probably won't, but younger kids just might, especially after seeing the commercials featuring the film's slapstick humor and silly looking Harland Williams.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For language, crude humor and thematic elements.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • HARLAND WILLIAMS plays a nerdy rocket scientist who's obviously smart at what he does, but comes across as a buffoon due to his bumbling ways. In the end, he saves the day and everyone likes him.
  • WILLIAM SADLER plays the gung-ho, seasoned astronaut who can't believe Fred was picked for his mission and often acts irritated toward him.
  • JESSICA LUNDY plays the mission specialist with no bad traits.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Movie comedies have always had the "buffoon" as a mainstay of their humorous characters. From Lou Costello to Jerry Lewis to the recent likes of Steve Martin and Michael Richards, these characters entertain us by their innocent, often obnoxious, and always bumbling ways. Since the latest king of such characters, Jim Carrey, has ascended to the top of the Hollywood acting heap and is now too pricey (at $20 million a pop) for smaller pictures, a new big screen buffoon was needed. Enter, Harland Williams (last seen in "Down Periscope"), who has the requisite goofy appearance and definite bumbling persona. Like most of those other actors and the characters they create, you can't help but like Williams, and his goofy antics will bring a guilty smile to most faces. Kids will obviously laugh out loud when a chimp bites and holds onto Fred's hand as we swings it around a room trying to get it to let go, and will giggle in glee at his assortment of weird faces and strange sounds. Of course such characters are sometimes an acquired taste and not all audience members will get a kick out of their antics, but hey, lighten up, it's not meant to be taken seriously.

    That pretty much sums up "Rocket Man," Disney's latest effort to provide kids with a non-animated comedy created directly for them. Williams is quite funny, in a slightly obnoxious way, in his role as the rocket scientist who gets picked to travel to Mars. Such a plot obviously provides a great deal of comic potential and director Stuart Gillard ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III") understands how to make the best of what he's got. Knowing that his audience will be comprised mainly of younger kids (and of course their parents), and that teenagers will likely skip this film, Gillard keeps any romantic elements to a minimum and delivers a great deal of slapstick and a little bit of bathroom humor to entertain that young audience that seems to love such material. Obviously parents and other adults shouldn't expect anything more than the simplest of characters, cheesy special effects, and sparse plot elements. It would have been nice, though, had the film provided a few more laughs for the older generation. The recent film "George of the Jungle" did that so well that it turned into a crossover hit among the age groups, and it's too bad this film didn't follow suit. While there are a few attempts at getting some laughs from the adults, they are few and far in between and mainly come across as lame.

    Beyond Williams the rest of the cast is competent in their filler roles of playing the "straight man" or hapless victim to Fred's antics, but Jessica Lundy ("The Stupids") does deliver a certain charm, and is the beauty that calms Fred's comic beast. The kids in our screening were entertained throughout, even in the later scenes where the focus shifts away from comedy to action/suspense as the crew must lift off from Mars during a dangerous sand storm. Such moments, and the prevailing humor, will keep kids glued to their seats and will be passable enough entertainment for parents to keep them from getting too bored. Silly and stupid, "Rocket Man" nonetheless hits a bullseye with its target audience and it, and Williams' antics, come across as funny lunacy. We give this film a 6 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Bathroom humor and some possibly imitative behavior highlight the "most" objectionable material this film has to offer. One sequence involves farting (somewhat typical in many kids' films nowadays) that generates many laughs on screen and from the audience. Williams goofy behavior, facial gestures and sounds may have kids trying to imitate them. Other behavior includes a boy getting inside a clothes dryer, acting like he's inside a space ship and having the dryer run while he's in it (also played for laughs, all of which may could be dangerous for impressionable kids). The main character gets drunk in one brief scene, and there are several instances where the crew's in danger that may prove to be rather suspenseful and/or scary to younger kids (but probably not to those in the just under ten-year-old range). Profanity is limited to a few hells and damns, and nearly all of the listed violence falls into the non-malicious, slapstick variety. Since many younger kids will want to see this film, however, we suggest that you examine the content before allowing them to do so.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • People drink beer in a bar.
  • Overbeck orders a "Blast Off" drink for Fred that consists of a stack of shot glasses filled with burning liquor. Fred blows them out, and then with the encouragement of Overbeck and others, quickly downs the many shots. Later, he appears to be drunk and dances with an empty space suit in the bar.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Fred has what appears to be just a tiny, bloody bite mark on his palm (after the chimp bites him).
  • Though not entirely seen, we do hear an astronaut candidate throwing up and moments later an official slips on the floor, but again, we don't see any vomit.
  • While not really bloody or gory, there is some bathroom "humor" present. Overbeck accidentally eats some hemorrhoid creme from what looks like a food tube, and Fred eats laxative cream. We then hear some intestinal rumbling and farting sounds.
  • There are also several long sequences where Fred and Overbeck have their suits tied together to share oxygen and Fred farts. His suit expands as we hear several more farting sounds and the gas finally makes it over to Overbeck who gags, etc... from the smell.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Overbeck isn't initially thrilled to have Fred on his team and is mad at him when his blunders goof up his plans, but he eventually comes around to liking Fred.
  • Fred sings "I've Got the Whole World in My Hands" first in English, and then butchers it in other languages. Some viewers may take offense of his Chinese version where he makes stereotypical Chinese sounds, instead of actual words like he does for the German and other versions.
  • A NASA official doesn't want to abort the Mars trip despite obvious and imminent danger to the crew.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • We see a crew preparing to land on mars. Suddenly their landing trajectory is off, the tense music starts, and the landing module crashes on the surface (as indicated by on screen animation). It turns out, however, to be a simulated test and no one is hurt.
  • Some spooky music plays when the crew sees Mars for the first time.
  • There's some brief suspense as their landing module runs into some problems landing on Mars, but everything turns out okay.
  • A dust storm approaches and finally engulfs the crew and their landing module. Fred goes out to find Overbeck and they then try to return to the ship and take off. Once they do, rocks strike their craft and they plummet back toward the surface. Fred has to rewire the computer in two minutes or everyone will perish. Younger kids (under 6 or so) might find this rather suspenseful and/or scary, but older ones probably won't.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Screwed up," "Screwing up," "Popcorn geek," "Geez," "I'm gonna kick your butt," "Idiot," "Shut up," "Moron," and "He who smelt it, dealt it."
  • Farting sounds are played for laughs in one sequence.
  • Fred, as a child, sits in a clothes dryer and looks out through the glass like he's in a spaceship. The dryer starts and he spins around and around. The scene is played for, and gets, laughs.
  • Fred parks in a tight parking space and then bashes his doors against the car and truck next to him as he tries to get out.
  • Julie makes loud, exaggerated chimp sounding calls to Ulysses. Fred does the same and then adds in more jungle sounding noises.
  • To amuse himself in an isolation chamber test, Fred loudly sings which unknowingly irritates and finally drives the other astronaut candidate, who's in the adjacent chamber, crazy.
  • Fred lets out a loud and funny beauty pageant winner-like scream when he's announced to be the next astronaut.
  • Fred sticks his hand down into a toilet while trying to retrieve a coin that Bud gave him.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's some suspenseful music in a few scenes where the crew is in danger.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • The song, "My Sharona" (from the 70's group "The Knack") plays in the background of a bar scene. While the song does contain some implied sexual lyrics, I didn't catch if they played those particular lyrics in this scene since the song isn't heard in its entirety.
  • The song "Rocket Man" by Elton John contains the phrase "...it's cold as hell..."
  • PROFANITY
  • 3 hells, 2 damns, and 3 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "God," and "My God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Fred is introduced to his new roommate, Ulysses, a chimpanzee, but thinks they're talking about Julie and he innocently says to her, "It's going to be a real honor sleeping with you....(then realizing his mistake)...in completely different beds."
  • SMOKING
  • People smoke in a bar.
  • We briefly see Fred with an artificial pipe that he's constructed out of other materials, but he doesn't smoke it.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We briefly see Fred's worried parents as they watch the TV news detailing his troubled mission.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Sending people to Mars.
  • VIOLENCE
  • All of the following is played in a slapstick mode with nearly no malicious intent present.
  • A small landing module model whacks an astronaut in the head as it spins around a base.
  • Fred goes through some swinging doors and runs into Bud.
  • Ulysses, the chimp, bites down onto Fred's hand and won't let go. Fred then swings his arm, and Ulysses, around the room and they knock over some shelves, etc...
  • Fred kicks off his shoes in his room and one of them flies through the window, breaking the glass.
  • Fred's chair comes lose during a g-force test and he blasts through several walls before smashing into another astronaut candidate who's in a wheelchair.
  • While being tested to see how long he can hold his breath, Fred begins to thrash around the room and accidentally kicks the other candidate in the crotch. Moments later, the ping pong ball in the test tube flies out, ricochets around the room and finally hits the other candidate in the eye.
  • When announced that he's been chosen as the next astronaut, Fred jumps up and down and accidentally knocks one guy down and another man's head onto a table.
  • Once in outer space, and seeing that Fred is floating about the cabin, Overbeck turns on the artificial gravity and Fred slams to the floor.
  • Fred accidentally slides down the landing module's ladder and knocks Overbeck to the surface.



  • Reviewed October 7, 1997

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