Wednesday, 26 May 2010

No.35 : The Rocketeer

I had pretty good memories of ‘The Rocketeer’ but was slightly wrong footed from the start when the ‘Disney’ logo came up - surely the House of Mouse have done nothing that appeals to anyone over 10 years old? ‘Herbie Goes Bananas’ excepted, of course.

Well there is certainly no sex, drug taking swearing or nudity but seeing as it’s an old fashioned adventure romp it manages to navigate past these shortcomings and remain an enjoyable offering.

The film is set just before the second World War with Nazis, spies and saboteurs all over the shop. We open with a young pilot testing a new aircraft when he happens upon an FBI chase and cops a bullet in the engine for his troubles. He manages to get the plane back to the airstrip just as the Feds and the gangsters arrive, causing his already stricken craft to blow up. One gangster manages to hide his loot before being arrested and our man and his chirpy mechanic Alan Arkin are left to count the cost.

The airfield owner tells them they’ll have to break out their old clown plane to entertain the air show crowds but as they dust the old bird off they find what the gangster has left behind - a super duper jet pack, designed and build by Howard Hughes. Seeing its potential worth, our men decide to make a few bucks off the machine before handing it back; but elsewhere more nefarious plans are afoot.

Paulie out of ‘Goodfellas’ has been employed by Timothy Dalton’s dashing but traitorous actor to get the jet pack for his Nazi pals. He kidnaps the Rocketeer’s girl Jennifer Connelly and it’s up to our guys to get into lots of situations that could benefit from having a jet pack to save the day. With the plan exposed Dalton makes off with Connelly and her zeppelins, sorry in a zeppelin , with the Rocketeer in hot pursuit. You’ll pretty much guess the rest.

If you ask most people they’ll wax lyrical about ‘The Rocketeer’ and rightly so ; there’s a lot to like. For a start the cast is spot on with the slightly slow but oh so dashing Bill Campbell in the lead. It’s a shame he’s not gone onto greater things but he did at least get a decent gig in Ricky Gervais’ ‘Ghost Town’ a couple of years back. Connelly is good fun too especially as she spends most of the film in a low cut ball gown. Timothy Dalton is great as the moustache twirling bad guy reportedly based on Errol Flynn and Alan Arkin is his always likable self as the cheery mechanic.

The plot is pretty basic with all the action basically happening over a day and a night. He finds the thing, leans to fly it and then saves the day in it. I’m not saying he should have had a love scene with it too, it just seems a bit straightforward in terms of plot direction. The end scenes with the Zeppelin were a good idea as up to that bit the only use of the rocket pack seemed to be a means of getting somewhere quickly.

There is no sense of danger in the film and despite a Rondo Hatton-esque unkillable bad guy most of the deaths occur off screen and those that don’t have a comic element to them. The sets and costumes are great and the whole thing is evocative of a more innocent time in both the movies and the world in general.

If you think the plot is a bit slight or you thing things fall together a bit too easily you may be right but for the most part I’d say ‘shut up I’m trying to watch this nice film again - Jennifer’s dress surely can’t stand the strain this time around?!’.

THE Tag Line : Strap It On And Brace Yourself 73%

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