Fred Z. Randall (Harland Williams), a geeky, obnoxious spacecraft designer, gets the chance to make his dream come true and travel to Mars as a member of the first manned flight there. There are lots of bumps along the way to Mars, and Randall’s misadventures with his crew and Mission Control team make RocketMan one of the funniest science-fiction films ever.
Fred still lives with his mother and father (Shelley Duvall and Gailard Sartain), and he has a great job as an engineer, but as the days in which the first manned mission to Mars are numbered, there seems to be a problem with the simulations the astronauts keep running into. They think there is glitch in the software, and track down Randall, the man whom designed the ship’s computer, to find out why. It turns out that the software is running fine, but the calculations that Gary Hackman (Peter Onorati) had been entering into the computer were wrong. The team, Mission Specialist Paul Wick (Jeffrey DeMunn), astronauts ‘Wild Bill’ Overbeck (William Sadler) and Gary Hackman, watch the test to make sure that Randall’s calculations are correct. A small model of the landing pod is attached to some kind Erector Set tower, and after Randall enters the data, the model spins, then lands safely and effortlessly, without a hitch. Hackman then enters the data from his own experience, and the model flails about over the heads of the men in the office wildly. It snaps from the tether, then smacks Hackman right in the head, leaving partially blind temporarily, and with a concussion. Hackman is scrubbed from the team, thus leaving a position open for a new astronaut to take his place.
There are two choices, Gordon A. Peacock (Blake Boyd), a natural choice for any shuttle mission with his impressive military background, and Randall, who knows the computers he designed for this mission better than anyone. The boys are put through a battery of endurance tests which will cause everyone watching to fall into fits of giggles. Randall sends Peacock into screaming fits during the isolation chamber tests. Even though the men are separated, they can still hear everything outside the tubes they are in. Randall finds a multitude of ways to keep himself entertained for a 24-hour period, including several soft then very loud, repetitive verses of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”. He breaks record after record of Overbeck’s in the most unusual ways. His ride on a intense gravity test is like a huge theme park ride to him, and he screams “Faster! Faster!” as they keep turning it up. He takes a lung capacity test, and breaks that record, too. All this happens while he is attempting to gain the affections of his crush, Julie Ford (Jessica Lundy), whom also a part of the team. Randall’s roommate during all this training and testing is Ulysses, a chimp that is crucial to helping the team find the possibility of life on Mars. During many of these mishaps, some accidental, and some sabotage on the part of other team members, Randall uses the defensive terms “Wasn’t me!” then points to whomever might be closest to take the blame.
When they take the news to the press of whom has been chosen to go, Randall is announced as the new team member, and he screams like a beauty queen winning a national pageant when he finds out. Once they get the shuttle into space, even more hilarity ensues when Ulysses takes over Randall’s hypersleep chamber, and Randall finds way too many ways to keep himself occupied while basically alone in space for eight months. He paints, he goes on spacewalks and cleans the hull and the windows of the shuttle, he even gives himself ballroom dance lessons with the spacesuits as his partner. He never really gets bored, but for all his creativity, we find out why Randall is truly the best man to send to Mars, even if he acts like a man from Mars.
Even though the shuttle program is over, we will never get tired of this fun movie. This it pokes fun at NASA from just about every angle, some of it deserved and some of it not, but we find out that even geeks can be heroes, because they might be the ones who are both smart and crazy enough to get the job done right. There might be a Fred Z. Randall working with you right now, so watch closely. You might learn a few things.
I give this film a Musing review of