Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cinematographicus: Rocketman

I take pride in being a film graduate who isn't afraid to not take the art of filmmaking quite as seriously as the stereotypical, snooty film student. Thus I bring to you my thoughts on a movie I recently watched for the first time in a long time: "Rocketman" (1997).

This is one of those movies that you have to watch while your mom/wife is taking a nap or out running errands, because if they watch this over your shoulder your reputation may suffer some damage. Like "UHF" and the "Bill & Ted" movies, the humor in this one is loaded with slapstick and goofiness that, although clever, is often conceived as a waste of time.

"Rocketman," for those who've never seen it, is sort of a cult-classic Disney movie about a NASA programmer, Fred Randall (played by comedian Harland Williams), who is chosen as an unlikely candidate to replace an injured astronaut on a mission to land on Mars for the first time. Note that this was released three years prior to the over-hyped flops "Mission to Mars" and "Red Planet," and succeeded in telling its story much better.

What I love about "Rocketman" (and movies like it) is that it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is: a goofy movie that exists to showcase the silly physical antics of Harland Williams. Is it shallow? Pretty much. But it isn't very redundant, and its length is just right so that you never wonder when it's going to end.

My only major complaint with the film is that it has a couple scenes where the jokes focus on flatulence, which is the absolute cheapest way to get a laugh. Anytime I'm confronted with a fart joke I just roll my eyes and wait for something original to come around. Yes, it's interesting to think about what would happen if one astronaut passed gas while sharing his space suit's oxygen with his commander, but dragging that moment out for a full three minutes is torture.

But let's face it: the real reason I'm mentioning this movie is for the gems inside it.

My favorite scene involves Fred expressing his feelings of inadequacy at becoming an astronaut, explaining that he compares himself to the Cowardly Lion. He then proceeds to do an amazing impersonation of the Lion, singing "If I Were the King of the Forest." Cracks me up every time. Another great moment is when Fred fails to enter his hyper-sleep chamber and goes crazy after being awake the entire 8-month journey to Mars, resulting in his using the crew's food supply to recreate a version of Michelangelo's "The Creation" on the space shuttle's ceiling. Fred also does a great rendition of Jiminy Cricket's "When You Wish Upon a Star," falsetto-voiced and everything, which is the precise moment in which he wins his female coworker's heart - a scene that is amazingly pulled off!

Other highlights include exclamations such as "Sweet Alaskan asparagus tips!" or "Sweet, swirling onion rings!"

Not the most profound movie in existence, but you know what? It succeeds at what it tries to be: a lighthearted story with a few moments that will make you so glad you sat through the whole thing.


Cabeza said...

I concur with this post 117%. It's a quite enjoyable movie if you're in a silly, no-brain mood.

The only thing I would have said differently is that crotch-shots are the cheapest way to get a laugh. Farts are a close second, but I would rather endure three minutes of that than the ubiquitous hit in the crotch that movie makers still seem to think is funny.

JKC said...

cabeza, you read my mind.

The guy getting hit in the groin is the universal form of cheap humor. Although, I will say that I find groin hits funnier (albeit cheaper) than fart jokes---probably because the groin hits aren't usually dragged out the way fart jokes are. The absolute worst, though, is the groin hit that is then dragged out by having the guy's voice go freakishly high.

I haven't seen Rocketman, but I do like the song.

Cabeza said...

If you like the song Rocketman, make sure that you hear it as it was truly meant to be performed:

By William Shatner

Cabeza said...

And please, please make sure you watch the whole thing. It really starts getting good at three and a half minutes.

Warren said...

I thought Rocketman was a funny movie. Not my favorite, but worthwhile. I also agree that groin/flatulent humor usually just isn't funny, with one exception.

Cabeza said...

I will concede Patch's point. Here's the other exception.

JKC said...

See, that's what I'm talking about. Both Hans Moleman and George C. Scott get it---Getting hit in the groin is the cheapest laugh there is, but it gets a laugh. It's cheap and mildly funny. The fart jokes don't even do that for me; they're cheap and not funny.

Cabeza said...

Right, but The Simpsons isn't getting a laugh from the crotch-shot. They're getting a laugh by making fun of the crotch-shot. It's meta-humor!

JKC said...

Good call. Meta-humor---that's funny.

But for somebody so versed in literary theory like meta-fiction, you ought to resolve the subject verb confusion in your lest post. Is The Simpsons a show, or are The Simpsons the writers?

Cabeza said...

The writers of The Simpsons aren't getting a laugh from the crotch-shot. They're getting a laugh by making fun of the crotch-shot.

Good call. I demand precision in my online language and I often impose that standard on others, so thanks for calling me on my subject-verb disagreement. Excelsior!