Making the Grades
In Rocketman, NASA is planning a trip to Mars much the way we would plan a weekend at the beach. One of the crew members is injured weeks before the launch, and in all the US of A, the bumbling Fred Randall (Harland Williams) is the only man they can find to replace him. Randall is the typecast computer genius, possessing the social skills of a three year old. He has dreamed of being an astronaut ever since he locked himself in his mother's clothes dryer and pretended he was going into orbit (children watching this movie need a firm warning that this stunt can be fatal -- it happens in the opening scene).
Ten minutes into Rocketman, I knew two things for sure: Randall would have to go to the bathroom at the moment of liftoff, and at least one flatulence joke would be included. Right on both counts. But the bathroom humor isn't what pushed this movie down to the C level. I can appreciate that some eight-year-olds may find this fodder funny, but when Randall's fellow astronauts delight in getting him hideously drunk during an evening of socializing, Rocketman betrays its young audience. The script does have crew member Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy) saying, "Getting someone drunk like this is wrong," but the words of warning are drowned beneath Randall's dancing antics in a space suit while the crowd cheers him on.
Besides the clothes dryer and the bar scene, Rocketman is your typical nonsensical movie that young boys are the most likely to enjoy, but don't expect them to learn anything scientific during this trip. Promotional materials claim that aside from "moments of fantasy, the entire movie is grounded in reality." With a spaceship that has more room than most downtown apartments, artificial gravity turning on and off with the flip of a switch, instantaneous radio communication between Earth and Mars, and a host of other follies my ten year old was able to perceive, I think it's more likely that "reality was grounded."