Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rocketeer (1991)

Neville Say Neville Again

- Based on Dave Stevens' graphic novel "The Rocketeer," the early 1991 Disney film of the same name is a very entertaining sci-fi comic book adventure. Not particularly welcomed with open arms by the audience of its time, people nowadays are starting to turn around to it and The Rocketeer has seemingly hit a sort of cult status.

The Rocketeer is set in the late 1930s where Howard Hughes has developed a one-man jet pack that is able to fly at incredible speeds. The United States government is keen on getting their hands on this jet pack to put it to use for the United States armed forces - and, unfortunately, they are not the only ones. American gangsters are after the jet pack as well through the paychecks of evil mind/big time Hollywood actor Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton), who is after it for his own Nazi-fueled purposes.

Enter our hero: Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell), a young small-town boy yet expert pilot. He does not have much and yet has it all: flying planes for a living and dating - and taking for granted - the beautiful and cultured Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly). When Cliff and his manager/mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin) stumble upon the jet pack by accident, Peevy makes some personal additions of his own to allow Cliff to fly it. But when Sinclair finds all this out, Cliff, Jenny, and Peevy are all put in harms way.

Joe Johnston (Jumanji (1995)) crafts a marvelously fun film out of The Rocketeer. From frame to frame, the film is fun, emotive, and exciting - there is not a dull moment. The special effects do not quite measure up to 21st Century standards but they manage to still look good and are not incredibly dated. Johnston also employs a lot of classic styles and techniques to The Rocketeer that gives it a Howard Hawks and William A. Wellman throwback vibe.

The one thing that The Rocketeer is missing is a strong lead actor. Bill Campbell stars as Cliff Secord and although he is hardly bad he is definitely lacking the presence to be a great screen hero and the acting skills to really develop the character. The character of Cliff Secord is the only character that could have been improved. Alan Arkin is charming and funny as Cliff's affable manager/mechanic/friend, Paul Sorvino does what he does best and gives a nice turn as a mafia tough, and Jennifer Connelly is especially excellent as Jenny, showing real quality, grace, and beauty (like she could help that last part). Out of all the great cast it is former James Bond Timothy Dalton that gives the best performance of the film and makes The Rocketeer worthwhile just to see him play the charismatic and smarmy villain Neville Sinclair.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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