I almost walked out of the new Director Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie Eagle," "Wild Bill," "Sunshine on Leith") movie, "Rocketman" in the first five minutes, because it's beginning just seemed so stupid.
I'm glad I didn't.
Veteran actor-turned-director Fletcher makes this a nice biopic about a living legend and I wondered if Elton approved. Apparently "Yes," as the music superstar is also the producer.
"Rocketman" is as outlandish as the original subject, without being gaudy (OK, a it IS a bit gaudy, but it's Elton John). The movie is both helped and hindered by star Taron Egerton ("Kingsman: The Secret Service," "Eddie the Eagle," "The Smoke") who seems to be doing a bad imitation of Elton throughout the movie.
But I think that is the whole point.
I think the REAL Elton John was doing a bad imitation of a rock superstar throughout most of his career.
As Elton, Egerton is ugly, both physically and emotionally, as well as seedy, warped and disgusting, all in equal measure. This is depicted very well by the young actor. His performance turned me off so badly that my first impression was to trade in my movie ticket for "The Secret Life of Pets 2."
When I heard that this movie was going to be made, I was anxious to know who would play Bernie Taupin, who I was always fascinated with, since I bought a book of the John/Taupin lyrics back in the mid-1970s.
Although this movie is "the Elton John Story," it makes no bones about the fact that Taupin was as instrumental in the John legend as Elton himself.
And Jamie Bell ("Billy Elliott," "TURN: Washington's Spies," "Jumper") plays a GREAT Bernie Taupin! Bell's character is so well written, that you can't help feeling sorry for the guy, while still admiring Elton John for crediting Taupin throughout their partnership and beyond.
Just as Elton John's legend is actually about both men, this movie gives us the same vibe, and just as in real life, when knowledgeable people hear "Elton" they think Elton/Bernie.
For second-tier roles in this movie, we have a couple of winners in Bryce Dallas Howard ("The Help," "50/50," "Jurassic World") as Elton's mom, Sheila, and veteran British television star Gemma Jones ("Bridget Jones' Diary," "The Duchess of Duke Street," "Teacup Travels") as Ivy.
Both play bit parts, elevated to showcase performances by their skills.
Richard Madden ("Game of Thrones," "Klondike," "Lady Chatterley's Lover") as John Reid also shows well, even though his character is made to be hated.
And what would an Elton John biopic be without music?
Being tone deaf, I will not attempt to judge the QUALITY of the tunes, but the performance of Egerton doing various clips of all of the star's greatest hits, was fantastic!
Credit goes not just to Egerton, but also to director Fletcher, for weaving in the hits in an almost chronological collage interspersed throughout the movie, without seeming to force the music or detract from the dialogue and acting.
Fletcher's long experience as an actor probably helped this out a lot.
"Rocketman" may not win any Oscars, but should be watched by generations to come, much as "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" are seen by anyone wanting to know what the Beatles' phenomenon was about, back in the '60s.
But, don't wait 20 years to go see it. It's now playing at Teays Valley Cinemas.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.