on October 10, 1997 by Dwayne E. Leslie
   Fred ("Down Periscope's" Harland Williams) didn't play football like other kids. Instead, he climbed into the clothes dryer and pretended, as he is going around, that he is in a space capsule spinning out of control. His fantasy: to be and astronaut. As an adult, his computer programming knowledge advanced to the level of being able to create a navigation program for a space shuttle, he gets a chance to show whether he has the right stuff. Together with the woman of his dreams, Mission Specialist Julie ("The Stupids'" Jessica Lundy), Commander Overbeck ("Solo's" William Sadler) and a chimpanzee, Fred becomes the newest member of a space shuttle crew heading for Mars.
   "RocketMan" is humorous at the beginning and then matures along the way; it goes from being a comedy to something akin to a Discovery Channel offering as audiences are given a close look at the Red Planet. Although the Caravan production is continually enlivened by some genuinely funny moments, those splashes of humor begin to overshadow the film's theme; as the visual gags mount, one might forget the message that the mission becomes a success because the crew members stopped thinking about themselves and made sacrifices that are for the good of all.
   Yet Williams' brand of humor and timing make his leading-role debut a treat worth watching. Children are likely to be especially attentive during his rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star"; the more he does, the more they love him. Whether he's demanding extra time in an isolation chamber or dealing with intense intestinal cramps, Williams has proven that he has, if not the right stuff, at least the right stuffing.
   Once again, Walt Disney releases a film at a time when parents desperately need a fresh film (i.e., babysitter) at which to drop off their young ones. But parents should be prepared for a new phrase their brood will pick up here: "It wasn't me!" will be their immediate response when they purposely do things wrong and then blame the act on an innocent victim.
Starring Harland Williams, William Sadler, Jessica Lundy, Jeffrey DeMunn and Beau Bridges
Directed by Stuart Gillard
Written by Craig Mazin and Greg Erb
Produced by Roger Birnbaum
A Disney release. Comedy.
Rated PG for language, crude humor and thematic elements
Running time 94 min.
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