by Don Franks
Rocket Man is a glitzy spectacle, scooping up on the extravagant showmanship side of Elton John. Two hours of energy and flair. The relentlessly full-on song and dance sequences mostly work, especially the fantasy sequence where little boy Elton leads neighbours for a frolic in their suburban street.
As any fan knows though, there’s a reflective side to the Bernie Taupin /Reg Dwight team’s production. The wistful likes of “Roy Rogers is Riding Tonight” doesn’t get its due in this presentation. A more even-sided sample of Elton John’s recordings would have been at variance with the movie’s ongoing theme of licentious excess. Like so many music bios, there’s more said about the drug-taking than the laborious crafting of composition and rehearsal.
Much is made of Elton John’s music as the expression of an unloved child. Little Reggie’s cold-hearted father sets the tone to a chilling degree; the rejection is moving and believable. Like the other main villain, Elton’s manager/lover, the father is shown as almost totally bad, just as the good guys – Bernie and granny – are totally good. The Rocket Man himself comes through as a more rounded character.
Sustained top drawer performances by boy and adult Elton are central to making the movie work. Main actor Taron Egerton consistently delivers in his demanding role.
I’m glad I went, although I think a better all-around job was done with similar material by the Queen movie. Rocket Man does score bonus points for sparing us “Goodbye England’s Rose”.