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The Reluctant Astronaut

Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  101m  •    •  Directed by: Edward Montagne.  •  Starring: Don Knotts, Leslie Nielsen, Joan Freeman, Jesse White, Jeanette Nolan, Frank McGrath, Arthur O'Connell, Joan Shawlee, Guy Raymond, Nydia Westman, Paul Hartman, Robert F. Simon, Robert Pickering.  •  Music by: Vic Mizzy.
       Don Knotts is Roy Fleming, a small town kiddie-ride operator who is deathly afraid of heights. After learning that his father has signed him up for the space program, Roy reluctantly heads for Houston, only to find out upon arriving that his job is a janitor, not an astronaut. Anxious to live up to the expectations of his domineering father, Roy manages to keep up a facade of being an astronaut to his family and friends. When NASA decides to launch a lay person into space to prove the worthiness of a new automated spacecraft, Roy gets the chance to confront his fears.

Trailers:

   Length:  Languages:  Subtitles:
 2:15
 
 

Review:

Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
Image from: Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967)
This movie is all ultra-lightweight fluff, predictable from beginning to end. As a Don Knotts vehicle, "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" was much better, with Knotts' character there not nearly as incompetent or ignorant. His performance there was toned down, with none of his trademark goggle-eyed stare, although that may have something to do with him being replaced for most of the movie by a cartoon fish. Knotts made a living of playing the likable imbecile, much like Bob Denver did. Neither really seemed to be able to break out to other types of roles, assuming they were simply typecast. It was probably because of the slouch, the wild stare and the high-pitched voice. John Ritter, whom Knotts worked with in "Three's Company," was able to transcend his genre, branching out successfully into dramatic roles like "The Dreamer of Oz," but the closest Knotts ever got was a small role in "Pleasantville." Even Leslie Nielsen was a bad fit here, uncomfortably neither straight dramatic actor as he was at the time nor deadpan comedic actor as he later became in "Airplane!" and "Police Squad."

There's also no way the then-43 year-old Knotts could pass for a 35 year-old, as his character insisted he was. It was as ludicrously unbelievable as Tom Hanks at 38 playing a college-age Forrest Gump.

The film was clearly made on a shoestring budget, very much looking like a hastily-filmed TV episode. It's especially evident in the "exterior" scenes of the "town" where Roy goes after he's fired. It's unlikely even a pre-schooler would be fooled by the Mayberry-like soundstage artificiality.

Even viewing this strictly as a children's movie, it's very disappointing. It's not because it lacks action or special effects, although it does. The pace is much too slow, the situations repetitive. How many times can you watch Roy getting onto or off a bus? A comedy for kids should at least sometimes be madcap, with breakneck gags, otherwise you risk boring them (and any adults in the theater as well). Movies, even kid's movies, have improved quite a bit in the intervening decades. Even many contemporary comedies were better filmed and written. Disney's "The Love Bug," for instance, at least had some interesting race action and much better character development.


Review by TVholic from the Internet Movie Database.