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Review: The Rocketeer (1991)

The Rocketeer (1991)

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Premise: In the 1940s, stunt pilot Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) discovers a jet pack that allows him to fly. With the help of an aviation mechanic (Alan Arkin), Secord uses the jet pack to perform heroic acts and soon finds himself pursued by organized crime figures, the FBI, and Nazi agents.

What Works: Like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film is a throwback to the adventure serials of the 1930s and 40s, and while The Rocketeer is not as good as the Lucas and Spielberg productions it is far better than overproduced crap like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The casting works well with Bill Campbell as the square jawed, clean-cut, well intended but naïve hero who struggles to figure out his relationship with his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly). The interaction between Campbell and Alan Arkin is very fun to watch; Arkin gets a few good lines and his relationship with the younger man gives the film some warmth. The Rocketeer is a Disney produced picture and it is a family friendly show with lots of adventure, physical comedy, and a basic romantic subplot, similar to the kinds of live action films Disney used to make like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Swiss Family Robinson.  

What Doesn’t: Although The Rocketeer is an homage, some moments of the film are a bit silly; in parts the acting is a little stale and the romantic subplot comes up short. Some of the film’s flaws are part of its charm but they are flaws nonetheless.

DVD extras: Trailer.

Bottom Line: The Rocketeer is fun, even if it is cheesy at times. The film shares the look and tone of early 1990s films like Dick Tracy and Tim Burton’s Batman and it’s fun in many of the same ways.

Episode: #188 (May 4, 2008)