Fred Randall (Harland Williams) has always wanted to be an astronaut, and now he may get his chance. A mere software designer, he is the only person NASA can turn to when their top two contenders as pilot for the Mars Mission are eliminated. He wrote the landing software, and no one else knows how to land the spacecraft. If they were to delay the launch, the infamous Martian sandstorms would prevent another landing for two years.
So, after a tedious romp through "Right Stuff" training, we're stuck with an even more tedious journey to the red planet. Joining Fred on the mission are irritable mission commander "Wild Bill" Overbeck (William Sadler), the sympathetic Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy), and the "every-movie-needs-an-animal" chimp, Ulysses.
Done right, this movie could have been a mildly pleasing slapstick satire. Unfortunately, it is not done right, and makes nearly every possible wrong move.
First off: Harland Williams. His schtick is only slightly amusing to begin with, and it gets old quick. He really needed a variety of things to do, but the film gets stuck in a rut, repeating the same gags again and again.
Next: the supporting cast. Try as they might, they just aren't interesting. You couldn't care less about the crew of Sadler and Lundy. Ulysses' role is way too big (I guess they had to fill the screen time with something. In place of genuine comedy, just stick a monkey on the screen!) And the bickering at ground control (between Beau Bridges and Jeffrey DeMunn) is bland and tired.
Finally, the script. To put it nicely, it is brainless tripe that telegraphs every subpar laugh moment way in advance. Not that there are many of them here. Even the film's best moments are mere eye-rollers.
Why is it that the space parody so often fails? Take a look at such gems as Spaceship, Airplane 2, or Ice Pirates, and you'll see that Rocket Man is not alone, but follows a grand tradition. Perhaps such science fiction provides too-easy targets, luring the writers to fall for the obvious jokes, rather than thinking about their subject. Perhaps the suspension of disbelief necessary for a science fiction premise interferes with the parody. In any case, it surely doesn't work in Rocket Man...a film that would crash and burn even if it were grounded.
[PG - language, crude humor and thematic elements] (Disney)