Though I am greatly anticipating the release of Thor: The Dark World this weekend, I’ve been trying to mask my enthusiasm a bit around my daughter. You see, she and I are both huge Marvel geeks, we love to read and swap comic books with one another, are devoted fans of S.H.I.E.L.D. and watch many other Marvel TV shows together. I don’t take her along to see the feature film adaptations, however, because she’s only 9 and a bit too young for PG-13. Sadly, she won’t be joining me at the theater for Thor.
Here’s a great superhero flick that I highly recommend to other dads in the same situation — it’s got a PG rating and it’s suitable for everyone. You, like much of the country, might have overlooked The Rocketeer in its day, but it’s definitely worth rediscovering. The 1991 Disney film unfortunately had paltry box office success when it was released, but many critics gave it good reviews, and it makes me wonder if it might just have been a little ahead of its time. And though movies rated G or PG can sometimes be too corny or campy for us dads — this movie has it all: secret agents, Hollywood stars (including character appearances by “Clark Gable” and “W.C. Fields”), car chases, narrow escapes, sex appeal and true love.
In some ways The Rocketeer is reminiscent of Iron Man. Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) is the “Tony Stark” of this storyline — but The Rocketeer is a period film, with a completely different style and tone. Based on the work of the late writer/illustrator Dave Stevens who created The Rocketeer in 1982, the movie is true to the look and feel of Stevens’ books. Billy Campbell brings a great all-American hometown boy look that really captured the essence of Stevens’ character a normal guy thrown into extraordinary circumstances. His best friend and surrogate father, “Peevy” was brought to life by Alan Arkin. But probably the biggest coup in casting was the young Jennifer Connolly who was the spitting image of Cliff’s girlfriend in the comics (who was herself inspired by pin-up model Bettie Page, whom Stevens famously idealized and memorialized extensively in his work.) Connolly has that perfect mix of sultry vixen and innocent heroine, but unlike the stereotypical damsel in distress, Connolly’s character Jenny could also take care of herself.
I also love the fact that the characters are down-to-earth good people who love one another. The theme of “family” is prevalent in The Rocketeer. There is a strong father/son relationship between “Peevy” and Cliff, and a lot of emphasis on the extended family that Cliff has surrounding him at the Bull Dog Café. Time and again they come to one another’s aid and show true loyalty and love.
There are many other incredible actors in the cast: Terry O’Quinn (Lost) plays the enigmatic Howard Hughes, the great character actor Paul Sorvino (Law & Order, Goodfellas) plays the mob boss, Eddie Valentine, and Timothy Dalton plays the villainous Neville Sinclair. Together they provide for a fun romp through this homage to classic serial adventures from the early days of film, radio, and television.