Insipid stupidity reaches a new plant Review: The film 'Rocket Man' is a waste of space.

October 10, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF


Oh, excuse me. I just finished watching "Rocket Man," and I'm afraid the experience killed so many brain cells, it's going to take a few moments to gather my thoughts.

Now, where were we?

Oh, yes, "Rocket Man," the newest effort from Disney to lure kids and their unsuspecting parents into theaters, make a quick buck, turn the film into a theme ride at Disney World ("Rocket Man" -- it's a natural) and feature it on one of the Disney-owned ABC's sitcoms.

Yes, yes, you say, but what about the film? Puerile. Stupid. Insulting. Grating. Insipid.

Decidedly not good.

"Rocket Man" stars a Jim Carrey clone named Harland Williams as Fred Z. Randall, a computer nerd who's equal parts Bill Gates and all Three Stooges -- he's smart enough to design a computer program that will guide the space shuttle to Mars, but enough of a klutz to put the mission's computer specialist accidentally in traction. When no one else is found to guide the ship through space, guess who ends up as NASA's newest astronaut?

Bumbling hilarity ensues.

Williams is a reputed stand-up comic who was apparently a forest ranger in Canada before realizing he had a future in making people laugh. Bad career move.

Hey, I'm sure the sort of shtick he exhibits here left elk rolling in the meadows. It should also play well among 7-year-olds. When Randall had a flatulence attack in his spacesuit, the kid behind me thought it was a howl. When Randall offered his stars-and-stripes underwear as a substitute for the American flag he'd just knocked into a Martian crater, the kid's friend practically fell out of his seat. When Randall got his head stuck in the toilet, the kids practically gagged from laughing so hard.

When Randall accidentally substituted hemorrhoid cream for a tube of food, I started looking for the nearest exit.

Oh, there's just so much that's bad about "Rocket Man." There's Williams, whose onscreen presence is so irritating, he makes Pee-wee Herman seem like Cary Grant. There's poor Beau Bridges, who tries to act dignified in his role as the tough-as-nails, but soft-underneath-it-all, mission controller. There's even poorer Jessica Lundy, who has to act charmed by Randall's unrelenting inanity.

And there are those wonderful little witticisms and catch-phrases Randall keeps uttering, words that will no doubt haunt me to my dying day. When he's surprised, Randall says things like "Sweet Alaskan asparagus tips!" (har). Every time he gets in a car, even if it's a Martian land rover, the first thing he says is, "Can I drive?" (har-har). And every time he gets caught doing something stupid -- about every 15 seconds or so -- he cries out, "It wasn't me!" (har-har-har).

Consider yourselves warned. "Rocket Man" is rated PG, meaning it's suited for general audiences -- provided, one should add, they've all been lobotomized. If you still insist on paying money to see this, and afterward are looking for someone to blame, remember: It wasn't me!

'Rocket Man'

Starring Harland Williams, Jessica Lundy and Beau Bridges

Directed by Stuart Gillard

Released by Disney

Rated PG (bathroom humor)

Sun score: *

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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