‘Rock­et­man’ re­caps Elton John’s life and ca­reer

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv - BY JAY BOB­BIN

It’s been a big time for mu­sic-star movie bi­ogra­phies lately, and that’s re­ally thanks to one film­maker.

Dex­ter Fletcher was brought in to fin­ish the Os­car-win­ning “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” af­ter the orig­i­nal di­rec­tor was fired. He’s also the driv­ing force be­hind “Rock­et­man,” the story of Elton John ... who has gone through many vari­a­tions in his work, from be­ing one of the flashiest stars to take the stage, to set­tling into an easy-lis­ten­ing mode that even saw – and heard – him fur­nish a Dis­ney-movie sta­ple (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King”).

Fletcher demon­strates that he’s more than up to tackling such a job from the start, draw­ing an ex­cel­lent per­for­mance from “Kingsman”-fran­chise star Taron Eger­ton as the singer­song­writer be­hind count­less hits that have stretched from the 1970s for­ward.

Flash­backs trig­gered by a group-ther­apy ses­sion cover John’s early life, with Bryce Dal­las Howard as his rather un­demon­stra­tive mother and Jamie Bell (whose “Billy El­liot” also was de­vised by this pic­ture’s writer, Lee Hall) as his long­time cre­ative part­ner Bernie Taupin. Stage and screen vet­eran Gemma Jones earns high marks as the grand­mother whose de­vo­tion helped John through his younger years.

Elton John him­self is one of the ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers here, so he had a di­rect say in what is or isn’t included. Given that, he de­serves credit for allowing the amount and depth of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, with Richard Mad­den play­ing a man­ager who be­came a key fig­ure in that. It’s quite pos­si­ble that some of John’s fans don’t know his whole story, and while “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” re­ceived some crit­i­cism for stop­ping short of full de­tails on Fred­die Mer­cury’s back­ground, that’s not likely to hap­pen in this case.

And then there are the per­for­mance se­quences in “Rock­et­man,” ex­pect­edly en­er­getic, and also quite im­pres­sive from the stand­point of Eger­ton him­self do­ing the singing. That’s the thing about an act­ing job like this: It’s more than the act­ing since the per­former in ques­tion also has to look and sound thor­oughly con­vinc­ing mu­si­cally, and Eger­ton de­serves the same sort of ku­dos that even­tu­ally led Rami Malek to his “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” Os­car.

Log­i­cally, many of John’s mu­sic hits are included, from “Your Song” to “Don’t Go Break­ing My Heart.” If there’s one area in which view­ers might feel short­changed, though, it’s in its omis­sion of much fo­cus on John’s cur­rent life as the hus­band of David Fur­nish and father of two chil­dren. That’s cov­ered by the film only briefly, but over­all, “Rock­et­man” does a fine job of show­ing how its sub­ject is still stand­ing.

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