- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2019

Director Dexter Fletcher cinematic effort that turned the life of Elton John, one of the world’s best-selling musical artists, into a musical fantasy debuts on the 4K format in Rocketman (Paramount Picture Home Entertainment, rated R, 181 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).

The transformation of Reginald Dwight into the mighty Elton “Hercules” John comes to life through flashbacks and reality-based characters that fictionally break out into spontaneous song and dance based on the artist’s hits.

Audiences will understand Mr. Fletcher’s creative intentions immediately as Mr. John (Taron Egerton) arrives to a rehab center in an orange devil costume with horns and heart glasses before the scene evolves into a musical salvo to the “The Bitch is Back” complete with a 1950s dance party in the suburban streets of London with his child doppelganger.

The film does touch on roughly accurate, pivotal moments in Mr. John’s life ranging from being a child prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music to his first meeting with longtime collaborator, lyrist Bernie Taupin; his debut at the Troubadour Club; writing “Your Song” in his mum’s living room; and his triumphant sold-out Dodger Stadium concert.

Mr. Egerton does an immersive job of recreating Mr. John’s look and style but more amazingly singing all of his hits.



With a comparable timbre and emotional level, he does an admirable job, with help from musical producer Giles Martin, of reinterpreting each song.

One of his best moments is a short but poignant duet with Celinde Schoenmaker (as Mr. John’s ex-wife Renate Blauel) when singing, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

Another is performing “Honky Cat” that plays out as a pure MGM musical, razzle-dazzle number as Mr. John embraces his flamboyant lifestyle of excess.

Suffice it to report, throwing most historical accuracy out the window, the movie is way more a musical odyssey that biopic.

Although energetically entertaining at points, I had a hard time feeling sympathy for Mr. John’s addiction battles and his mommy and daddy issues when at any given moment the screen exploded into a Busby Berkeley musical number.

However, “Rocketman” does great job of putting a new spin on Mr. John’s catalog including numbers such as “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” as well as providing an excellent framework for creating a smash Broadway musical.

Repeat all together now, “Rocketman: The Musical,” cha-ching, cha-ching.

4K in action: Viewers only get a 4K upscale culled from the 2K master format and that’s too bad considering the colorful effort put forth by Mr. Fletcher, cinematographer George Richmond and costume designer Julian Day.

They offer a myriad of soaring hues throughout while embracing Mr. John’s love of costuming, reference his sparkly multicolored bird costume early on.

Also notable is the set production detail afforded large musical numbers such as “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” with a colorful Ferris wheel in the backdrop.

All visuals look quite crisp, but the high dynamic range punch is not as impressive as I would have hoped for. I’m comfortable recommending the Blu-ray version as much as the 4K in this instance.

Best extras: The collection of bonus content does a great job of celebrating the music of Mr. John while mixing in the exploration of the creative process and interviews with the maestro and key actors and crew.

First, viewers can watch extended versions of the music numbers for “The Bitch is Back,” “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting),” “Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache” and “Honky Cat.”

For example, “Honky Cat” now has a finale with a tap dancing chorus line and dancers dressed in white boxers.

Next, fans can sing along to 13 of the songs via a karaoke-style presentation (English only) with quick menu access to each musical number in the film.

As far as featurettes, five segments offer roughly a total of 45 minutes of behind-the-scenes fodder with words from the director, Mr. Egerton and Mr. John (occasionally interviewing one another); music producer Mr. Martin; producer David Furnish (Mr. John’s current husband); production designer Marcus Rowland; and even just a pinch of Mr. Taupin.

They cover production design and costuming, staging the lavish musical numbers, Mr. Edgerton becoming Mr. John and an overview of the project.

Best of the bunch is watching Mr. Edgerton in the studio working with Mr. Martin to craft and reinterpret the legendary songs.

Rounding out the extras are 10 deleted scenes (quickly introduced by the director) that include Mr. John learning about Ryan White (a child infected with AIDS from a blood transfusion) while he recuperated from a heart attack. That was a pivotal moment in his decision to clean up his life and should have been included for sure.

The package also includes a 12-page except from Mr. John’s autobiography “Me.” Sure, more self-promotional than insightful, it should still please fans of the musician.

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