VHS Review: RocketMan (1997)

I don’t know if kids dream about becoming an astronaut to explore the farthest reaches of outer space anymore. Kids today are bombarded with entertainment options; explicate material they should not even see. Somewhere in this amassment of new media the dream of exploring our world has been lost. You don’t need to actually go anywhere in today’s world, you can simply find out information on the web – but what are you missing out on? What better way to find the truth then to discovery it for yourself!

It’s that spirit that I acquaint with watching the movie Rocketman. The main character Fred Randal, a computer programmer, has some bizarre personality traits, challenges but he still manages to fulfill his dream of going to space – we should all be so lucky.

So gather your custom made space suit and let’s blast off and enjoy watching the comedy Rocketman.

My VHS:

I just had to have this movie in my collection. I don’t mind owning comedies on VHS because for the most part they are not known for their visuals, so I plan on keeping this one around for as long as it still plays. I watch this movie a lot and almost have it all but memorized. There just are so many funny moments in the film that it keeps me coming back for more like my coffee maker.

If I recall, I got this at a yard sale for .50 cents. What I love about this tape is that the box is covered with stickers. It makes me feel like an eight year old girl with a Hanna Montana sticker album! These might ruin the collecting aspect of tapes but I think they provide more context to the time in which you could buy them new. And who actually remembers video rental stores?

My copy is in decent condition with hardly a mark on it. The picture shakes a bit so it might be worn out from watching it too much. How many movies can you say that about? On the actually tape there are a few stickers. One that just says “Dick’s”, how funny is that? Maybe that is an old rental house, I don’t know. The rental place really wanted me to rewind the tape and even would charge fifty cents if you did not! That is totally not fair.

I remember a few places doing something like that, but I never went to them for that reason. That is a shameless business practice and really not fair to the customers. If you assume most films have previews on them then it will take that much time to re-wind the tape. Is it really hurting your business to rent a tape that is not re-wound? What are your thoughts on it?

On the cover of the tape there are more stickers. A big circle sticker claiming “Blowout: High quality used tape – 30 day guarantee.” Paying that much for a DVD seems crazy in today’s movie world. At least they placed the stickers where it would not ruin the box cover. I am going to leave the stickers on because I think they seem like battle wounds, scares and are a badge of honor that I saved this tape from being trashed.

Catalog Number: Walt Disney Home Video

Release Date: 19

TRT: 94 min.

Acquired: 2008

Price: .50 cents

Movie Previews: Little Indian – Big City, Mr. Magoo, The Lion King: Simba’s Pride (short commercial), Peter Pan: Video Release.

Condition: C

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Trailer Review:

I could not find a trailer online to review for this movie. If anybody knows of one online please let me know.

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Box Design:

There are a few different releases of this film on VHS but I like this design the best. I absolutely love hand drawn movie posters; it’s a lost art form. Think of all the unemployed artists in the world – let’s put them together making posters again instead of floating head posters.

I do have a slight problem with the scene depicted on the cover not being in the movie – I wonder why they did this? I wonder if it was a cut scene or something clever like that. The movie is about going to Mars so I think something, you know, on that planet might have worked better. Since my box is covered with stickers I had to look on the Internet to really digest the cover design.

I think the top Walt Disney Pictures graphic could be lowered along with the Rocketman name. The tag line “He’s just taking up space!” really does not make it seem positive and this is a Disney movie where they are often overly positive. The main character in the movie, Fred Randal, plays a big role in the success of the mission and is centered on him. I would think of a more goof ball approach for the tag line for this one.

Under the blowout sticker there is a quote from Roger Ebert claiming “A wacky comedy!” Now my first reaction was that I bet Ebert does not like this film. I looked up his review and he did give it a 3 star rating, I was quite surprised. I think Disney put a little too much publicity on his opinion of this movie and if it were me as a designer I would use that space to show another character or the chimp.

The drawing is nicely done and colorful. It definably draws the views attention that this is a comedy film. I would change the expression on the Fred’s face for the cover and make it even zanier. If you glimpse at it, such as on a rental shelf, he just looks like a really fat guy in an astronaut suit.

Front Rating: B

I don’t see much point in adding a quote from a reviewer and that quote only saying “Hilarious!” I mean that to me seems like they don’t have anything important or relevant to say about the movie. Who actually reads the Kansas City Star anyways – what an odd choice?

I like the back of the box, there is a lot to look at and they crammed it in nicely. It kind of ruins the movie that they actually do get to Mars. To me, getting to Mars was the icing on the cake as Fred’s real dream was seeing the Earth from space.

One last thing is that I find it really strange they don’t show at least a face shot of Jessica Lundy who played Julie Ford in the film. It seems like a natural choice to show a woman on the cover, maybe they could not find a revealing enough shot of her to get the men to go see this movie.

Back Rating: B

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Movie Review

This is one of my favorite movies, I can’t lie. I can try to pretend that it’s just like other comedies from the 90’s but I keep coming back to it. I get re-fueled with the jokes and the adventure it has a lasting quality that I enjoy. I first saw this one as a kid, probably around 14 or so. I don’t know for sure but I have always remembered watching this one. I feel like it’s a hidden comedy gem, kind of lost in the shuffle of the many comedies released in the 90’s.

Go checkout the Internet if you would like to learn the plot of this film, this is just my reaction to it with many spoilers.

The film student in me knows that there are a lot of problems with this film but as a movie watcher I love it. The very unlikely plot of a computer programmer being able to not only train at NASA but go to Mars is high implausible at the least. There are so many moments in this movie when you know that can’t happen or the mission would end like it did in the opening scene of the capsule crashing into the Earth in a giant fireball.

Before this movie I did not know who Harland Williams was, and maybe that is why I like it. I did not know what he did or the characters he was good at portraying, I had fresh eyes. After you know his work you see that it’s really geared up just for joke after joke, but I love the jokes in this movie. And even better is that they are not gross or involve sex – so rare today.

If you get pasted the idea of going to Mars with no training then you will get stopped by the crew bringing a chimp along for the ride. He really does no work, what a free-loader. If the movie is played up to boys they might not even like him, why not make him a robot instead?

Fred gets bunked with the chimp in a hotel even. This would never be allowed by the hotel staff, think of all the towels you would go through cleaning up after the chimp. I found this part to be too silly, half the movie the chimp is not even in the story – what were they thinking casting him?

Julie Ford is the trainer for the chimp but she is a geologist not a zoo keeper. I found her role in the movie to be just a love interest. There is no character development and nothing comes out of her mouth or the other characters that really tell about what the have going on inside, not even the main character that just seems to be on an endless trail of jokes.

The one character we saw with development is of Bud Nesbitt played by Beau Bridges. He did a great job I thought and I was happy to see when he got the courage to stand up to his boss at the end. We all should find that courage.

When the movie opens you see Fred as a kid playing spaceman in his mom’s dryer. This is a really cute scene and sets up the movie well. I like later on when the refers back to the Earth as a giant blueberry. Something’s growing up we lose things we love as a kid and Fred still has that inside of him. I did not feel emotionally attached to the characters at all, the plot or anything really about the mission. Everything was so superficial and generic that you could replace any element and have the same movie. Maybe that is why it got such bad ratings across the board.

Everything that happens in the movie gets explained a million times such as the giant wind storm at the end of the movie. There is a setup scene where Fred has to re-wire the shuttle while a wind storm is happening. This is not foreshadowing this is just telling the audience what is going to happen. So the plot is paper thin, at least it has more of one that most action movies.

There is not much else to say about this one, I enjoy watching it and can sit down anytime for another round of Rocketman. The movie has heart, it has some really funny and unique jokes  and it’s a comedy set in the hush-hush world of science fiction = win.

To end below are some of my favorite phrases from the movie.

Fred: “Fun is my Chinese neighbor’s middle name!”

Fred: “I feel like a paleontologist that’s been hunting dinosaurs his whole life and finally got to meet one!”

Fred: “I’ll enter the same calculations using what we like to call The Right Way.”

Movie Rating: B

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Fun Scenes:

Heading Towards the Sun :  When Fred first goes to NASA he ventures off on his own quickly. I guess to show the audience that his brain is always thinking. I love the scene where he finds a painting of the sun and plays with his pen. Harold Williams is famous for a few character impersonations so it’s fitting this was in the movie. It does not really move the plot forward but it’s a laugh.

Space Singing: After the astronauts enter space they communicate with the president. There is a follow up joke with Fred falling into the toilet that fails pretty badly. But the president asks Fred what he thinks of being in space and this leads to a very funny song sequence.

I just love how he is making fun of all the cultures languages. To me, watching this scene is like sticking it to the man. Seeing something like this in real life is the best, where the people can’t defend themselves are just have to take it. I love it so much; the different words he knows are used to fill in the parts of the song.

If you notice they use a lot of stock footage for this scene of the different cultures. My guess, coming from a film background, is that they use these so they won’t be sued for making fun of cultures and not being able to identify people. If you are going to use stock footage in your film, make sure you color correct it to match the tone of the project you are working on.

Just check it out and don’t be too political about it!

Fred’s Trip: I also love when Fred is announced as the next astronaut and will be heading to Mars. The part that really sells it for me is when the chief in charge is embarrassed to make the announcement. I love it when they do announce it and Fred screams like a little girl – classic.

Silly Scenes:

Coke in Space: There is a part of the space singing scene that I just noticed when watching the movie for this review, a giant coke bottle appears in most of the food eating scene just before this one. I find it funny they have a spaced version of Coke, maybe they do in real life but it looks like blatant product placement to me.

Not asleep in space: This whole section where Fred gets trapped outside of the sleeping capsule and must remain awake for the duration of the trip to Mars is not needed. I find it almost boring, because we know nothing is really going to happen, it just provides jokes for having jokes. They could take this part out to speed the movie up. At the end of the movie they should be completely out of food but they don’t mention it again after this scene so for that it’s just filler. I find it funny the movie is 94 minutes long, most are 90 – why not cut this scene and get it to 80 something?

Pros:  

–          Really funny jokes that rely on timing rather than crude humor.

–          Lots of weird and interesting gags.

–          Characters are fun to watch.

Cons:

–          Very implausible plot in real life.

–          Lack of a scientific grounding.

–          Lackluster character development – could be shorter.

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