the rocketeer the quarantine stream

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: The Rocketeer

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+

The Pitch: A whiz-bang, pulpy, old school adventure about a pilot in 1930s Hollywood who accidentally finds himself a rocket pack. Unfortunately, the Nazis are after it, too.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: We could all use a little escapism right now. The Rocketeer is an action-adventure movie with emphasis on adventure – one of the few non-Spielberg films to capture his Indiana Jones-style. Best of all, it ends with the bad guys losing, and losing big time – something that seems in very short supply here in the real world, especially these days.

The Rocketeer was a box office disappointment when it arrived in 1991, but has since gained itself a well-deserved following. It’s a film that’s light on its feet, and heavy on the type of pulpy adventure that you usually get from Indiana Jones movies. That makes sense, since director Joe Johnston worked on the special effects for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It’s 1938, and hotshot stunt pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell, who is admittedly a little flat here) wants nothing more than to win awards for his crazy stunts and then spend time with his beautiful girl, Jenny (Jennifer Connelly), a struggling actress. But fate intervenes when a rocket pack – designed by none other than Howard Hughes! – ends up in Cliff’s hands. Soon, he and his buddy/father figure Peevy (Alan Arkin) are trying to figure out how the dang pack works, and Cliff is using it to blast off into the stratosphere.

Unfortunately, he’s not the only one with eyes on the rocket pack. The Nazis are also in town, and they want it all for themselves. And the Nazis have themselves an inside man in Hollywood –  movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton), modeled on Errol Flynn, an actor who became the subject of an urban legend suggesting he was a secret Nazi spy. And oh yeah, the mafia is involved, too. Because of course they are.

All of this – rocket packs, mobsters, beautiful dames – is the stuff of pulpy comic books, and Johnston brings it all to life with a genuine sense of glee. This movie is fun, damn it. Elevating it all is the dynamite score from the late James Horner – a big, loud, triumphant soundtrack that makes you want to run around your house like a kid on a sugar high. They really don’t make ’em like this anymore, and I sure wish they would.

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