RocketMan Apr 7, 2017 11:28:21 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Apr 7, 2017 11:28:21 GMT -5
Directed by: Stuart Gillard
Directed by: Stuart Gillard
Harland Williams (left) and William Sadler in RocketMan.
NOTE: This film was recommended to me by Ramsey Pokryfke for "Steve Pulaski Sees It," a month where I watch twenty-five films requested by friends, fans, and readers.
Whoever proposed the idea of having the guy who played a state trooper in a two-minute scene in Dumb & Dumber be the lead actor in a generic, frequently unfunny Disney comedy need not have any of his or her ideas taken seriously for a very long time. Even twenty years later.
RocketMan is an aggressively lousy film with only the faintest glimmers of inspiration that are about as common as the planets aligning on the night of a blue moon. It makes a compelling case for why actor Harland Williams, who I am surely convinced is a wonderful person to have lunch with, should not helm another comedy co-written by the writer of The Hangover Part II and aim higher on his next project than starring in a film directed by the man who made both Twitches films.
Williams plays Fred Z. Randall (Harland Williams), a buffoon of a software programmer working as a secondary man for NASA. Fred, however, gets the chance to be on the frontlines in the first manned mission to Mars when one astronaut suffers serious head trauma. He is hyperactive and constantly causing trouble he repeatedly claims he had nothing to do with. "It wasn't me!" might as well be the character's catchphrase.
Forgoing the fact that even if you force yourself to adopt the fiercest suspension of disbelief that there would be no conceivable way this character would ever get remotely near a NASA-operated facility in his lifetime, much less be chosen to board a spacecraft en route to Mars, Fred is nonetheless given the opportunity of a lifetime. He travels via the Aries spacecraft alongside the strict commander Bill Overbeck (William Sadler), a geologist named Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy), and Ulysses, a trained chimpanzee who has an IQ that may indeed be higher than Fred's.
The four travel to Mars and their first task upon launch is to secure themselves in sleep-pods that will make sure they stay asleep but hydrated and healthy over eight months and awake shortly before their arrival on the red planet. When Ulysses steels Fred's pod, Fred tries to stuff himself into Ulysses' tiny bed with little success - he awakes after just thirteen minutes of slumber. He spends the next five minutes - which is eight months in the film - amusing himself by destroying the Aries, scarfing down the food and occupying himself accordingly.
I can't exactly give pinpoint reasons why I find Pauly Shore and several of his comedies, like Bio-Dome and Son in Law, funny. Perhaps it's the fact that those films have unusual concepts that give Shore a lot of free-range to add to the wackiness of the premise by creating these loud and rambunctious characters, or perhaps it's the fact that Shore throws about ten things at the wall with every comic performance and usually about six or seven things stick, prompting a good ratio of hits to misses. Harland Williams simply doesn't have it with this premise. He never stops talking, his facial expressions and personality are nauseating, and he has no charisma to sustain even a lax eighty-eight minutes.
RocketMan's concept is also a pretty lame one too, and the moments of inspiration I mentioned earlier work because of some aesthetic or creative spark that separates themselves from a film that's otherwise basking in relative sameness. Consider the scene where the Aries flight director (Jeffrey DeMunn) puts Fred in one sealed, airtight space and another potential astronaut in an adjacent space for twenty-four hours, designed to emulate the lack of human and outside contact in space. Fred winds up occupying himself in a myriad of ways, whether it be loudly belting out lyrics to the song "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" or putting on a sock-puppet show with his own imagination. Being that his loud exclamations to himself trigger an echo to his companion's isolated shelter, Fred operates well in his own world while his fellow astronaut, not so much.
RocketMan could've used a lot more of that; a lot more unique, absurdist setups, interestingly edited, with an emphasis on Williams' boundless energy being put to use other than just redundant quips of him pleading innocence. But the film's generic concept and largely laughless second-half exhausted me and continued to wear on me throughout the film. This isn't a jaded critic's condemnation of a severely unfunny film, but someone who often enjoys slapstick comedy and nineties-era screwball comedies revolving around one particular actor waving the white flag in, possibly seminal, defeat.
Starring: Harland Williams, William Sadler, Jessica Lundy, and Jeffrey DeMunn. Directed by: Stuart Gillard.