Awfully Good: RocketMan

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

RocketMan (1997)

Director: Stuart Gillard
Stars: Harland Williams, Beau Bridges, William Sadler

NASA sends the right man to prove there’s no intelligent life on Mars.

If this column has taught us anything, it’s that every movie, no matter how terrible, has its fans. We all have our guilty pleasures—those movies we’re embarrassed to admit we love for whatever inexplicable reason. ROCKETMAN is that movie for me.

Jeffrey DeMunn could only look on in horror at how unbelievably lame the “Walking Dead” Season 3 finale was.

I recognize this is not a good film. I realize its level of humor is aimed at 8-10 year olds and that it comes to us from the director of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III: TURTLES IN TIME. I know all of this, yet I still love it unabashedly. I can’t help but laugh every time the main character farts in space, yells out “It wasn’t me!” or gets mentally and physically bested by a monkey. So for all the other ROCKETMAN fans, if you’re out there, this one’s for you.

It’s disturbing how much this kid looks like Mad Magazine cover boy Alfred E. Neuman.

Comedian Harland Williams, who you might recognize as Kenny from HALF-BAKED or the piss-drinking cop from DUMB AND DUMBER, gets the starring role here and I can honestly say he makes the most of it. Williams plays well-meaning weirdo Fred Randall, a brilliant computer engineer so socially inept and destructive that if he actually did work at NASA the Earth would probably be destroyed by now. Williams runs at 110% throughout the entire runtime—dropping jokes, weird faces and nonsensical non-sequiturs at light speed. It’s a minor miracle that in spite of his stupidity and epileptic mannerisms you don’t end up hating the character. He may be an idiot who ruins literally everything, but he’s a likable idiot who ruins literally everything.

“Quick! Do your best Renée Zellweger impression!”

The filmmakers smartly surrounded Williams with a cast of “serious” actors to help ground the wackiness. There’s GREEN MILE and “Walking Dead” star Jeffrey DeMunn as a humorless NASA boss who is the main reason the most unqualified human on the planet is the first man on Mars. Beau Bridges stars as the man responsible for the Apollo 13 disaster, who mentors Fred and gives him a special Presidential Bravery Coin, which the astronaut somehow manages to flush down the toilet almost immediately. And then there’s naked tai chi master and Death himself William Sadler as mission commander Wild Bill Overbeck. Sadler is the perfect straight man to Williams and unwilling victim to Randall’s stupidity. And seeing the tough guy roleplay as a small child and call Harland Williams “mommy” is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Edward Blurryhands was less interesting, but at least he could sleep on a waterbed without issue.

ROCKETMAN is a silly, minor film that I’m sure everyone involved with has completely forgotten about, but it’s stuck with me over the last 15 years. (I quote “The flesh, it burns!” to an unsuspecting public on a regular basis.) There are so many one-liners and memorable moments it’s impossible to list them all. From immaturity (“I’m 30 years old. I’m almost a full grown man!”) to gross out gags (hemorrhoid cream…yum!) to random blurtings (“Sweet Alaskan asparagus tips!”) to dead-on impressions (Williams’ Cowardly Lion kills me) there’s plenty to choose from. But the part that makes me giggle uncontrollably is the gassy spacesuit gag. Randall and Overbeck are forced to share oxygen through a tether as they walk on the surface of the Red Planet. Without warning, Randall begins to feel tummy pains and soon his suit is filled with gas. The commander can only watch in abject horror as the rancid methane visibly travels through the connecting cord and into his own suit. As their NASA co-workers crack up back in Houston, Randall still has the gall to deny ownership. (“What do you mean ‘It wasn’t you?’ We’re 35 million miles from the nearest person!”) It takes a lot to make a purely visual fart joke, but this movie has the intestinal fortitude to just go for it.

“Is there any other kind of Pootie?”

So go ahead, Elton John. You can make your biopic and title it ROCKET MAN. But your life story will pale in comparison to that of American hero and astronaut Fred Z. Randall.

Fred suffers a breakdown in communication (“Brazilian Donkey!”) and takes advantage of being the first person on Mars.

One of the best fart jokes ever, a dramatic rescue and a fight involving a monkey. What more could you ask for in life?

Even the chimp wears a spacesuit.

“I’ll enter the same calculations using what we like to call The Right Way.”
Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Fred says, “It wasn’t me!”
  • Fred says, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!”
  • Burning flesh is mentioned
  • Fred fights with a chimp or makes monkey noises

Double shot if:

  • Fred leads the entire world’s populace in a singalong to “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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