The Reluctant Astronaut (1967) Poster

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Top Knotts, in Space
noyb cutshall26 April 2006
Knotts plays a man who works at the local kiddieland as an "astronaut" for a children's ride. His war hero father's dream is to have Knotts be a real astronaut but Knotts is afraid of heights and most important, he is afraid of disappointing his father.

Knotts has a very good outing in this outer space flick. He brings the usual "I'm scared to death" character that made Knotts a star on both TV and film. Knotts was allowed to develop this character from a man who couldn't better himself and had no pride, into a space hero that the community looked up to.

This is a good family movie from the 60's and it's top for Knotts.
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A lovable flick
russjd20 September 2006
A lovable - adorable - cute - funny flick - great for very young kids - wonderful - i loved it when i was a kid and its still better than all the violent bad mouth pictures parents let their kids watch to day! how could you not like it? anyone who says different is a grumpy olé fart!

(After learning that his father has signed him up for the space program)- already a classic! the best is yet to come!

(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) now the fun really hits the mark!

this is even better for all of us who grew up with a space programs
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Don Knots goofiness
fomlife7772 December 2008
Despite the unrealistic final act that results from a pretty ordinary wacky sitcom premise, RA is able to deliver the out of orbit laughs it deserves due to comic legend and extraordinary nerdy actor, Don Knots. Leslie Nelson co-stars as a straight non-wacky non-funny man. It's interesting to see him play it straight after watching him in so many satirical and parody-type films.

It may not be the smartest comedy ever to hit the screen, but it's fun and you could stick it in your DVD player and not have to worry about what lasting effect it would leave on your young ones. It may be somewhat unrealistic but it works and is still smarter and more intelligent then a lot of kid themed flicks that are made today. You can even pick out the logical inconsistencies with your kids and make it into a educational film, while still having a fun time.
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Great When I Was A Kid, But Now . . .
Big14 March 2005
I LOVE Don Knotts, let me just say that up-front! He is an enormous talent and the best at what he does, which is portray a nervous, lovably befuddled loser thrown into a position of authority. He is fabulous in this role as Roy Fleming, the Reluctant Astronaut, but the film is pretty dull, really, even though as a kid my brother and I delighted in watching this and his other films. It's still worth watching but really it's a film that is best enjoyed by children. I'd categorize it as 100% family-friendly and something you could sit down and watch with your kids on a family night.

As with all of Knotts' films, there's a great cast of beloved character actors and you can't help but smile when Knotts gives one of his shaky, open-mouthed stares, no matter how old and jaded you are.

From an adult perspective, one thing I think that is great about this film is how it captures NASA in the 1960s -- all the new modern buildings, the hope, the optimism, the future! And I was surprised at how suave and studly Leslie Neilsen was back then. Only complaint about the story is Roy's love interest, a rather threadbare, unlikeable woman who can't give him the time of day until he becomes a big shot -- if you're like me, you'll be hoping that he gives her the shove-off at the end. Beware -- you'll be whistling the theme tune for days after watching, it's that catchy.
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weak movie with a few small laughs
SnoopyStyle21 December 2014
Roy Fleming (Don Knotts) plays an astronaut for the kids in a small town carnival. He's head over heels for fellow carnival worker Ellie Jackson (Joan Freeman). He is 35 and afraid of heights. His dominating father (Arthur O'Connell) doesn't listen to him. He had sent an application to NASA and they accepted. He tells the entire town and Roy reluctantly goes to Houston the next day. He is befriended by veteran astronaut Major Fred Gifford (Leslie Nielsen). It turns out that he's hired as an apprentice janitor supervised by Donelli (Jesse White). When his father and friends show up, Roy tries to pretend to be an astronaut. He causes general havoc and Donelli fires him.

Don Knotts is a likable performer with his big googly eyes. The jokes aren't sharp. There're a few passable laughs. It's more of a light kiddie movie. It's a little annoying because the misunderstanding can easily be explained away. If he has a backbone, he would just tell the truth. If he has any brains, he would tell them that he washed out of the astronaut program. The story is nothing more than poor sitcom material. The movie is generally weak with a few small laughs along the way.
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Scared Of Heights.
AaronCapenBanner2 November 2013
Don Knotts stars as amusement park ride operator Roy Fleming, who is afraid of heights, but whose father Buck(played by Arthur O'Connell) sends in a job application on his behalf to NASA, and is surprised to find that Roy has been hired! Upon arrival in Houston, Roy is dismayed to learn that he is a janitor, not an astronaut, and his supervisor(played by Jessie White) isn't sympathetic at all, though a friendly Major(played by Leslie Nielsen) does offer friendship, despite Roy's outrageous efforts to convince his family he is really an astronaut... Silly and thin comedy is quite innocuous as family friendly entertainment, but too unbelievable and predictable to succeed.
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Another Exhibition for the Likeable Don Knotts.
tfrizzell4 July 2002
Small-time carnival operator Don Knotts gets enlisted to work for NASA by his father. Of course the job Knotts has gotten is to be a janitor in Houston. Now Knotts must lie to all his friends and relatives to make them think that he is a real astronaut. NASA is in need of funds though and they show their confidence in their program by coming up with an idea to send a non-astronaut into outer space. Get the picture? A funny little film that is once again an exhibition of Knotts' talents. Leslie Nielsen is priceless as the astronaut assigned to be Knotts' primary instructor. A film that plays more like a long television show rather than an actual motion picture. Fair in the end. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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Thin, dated, but clean comedy
m2dad13 September 1999
Typical Don Knotts humor though The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was by far a better film. Thin, dated, but clean comedy that might be enjoyed by younger kids, or adults who are nostalgic for that type of 60's genre. Very much reminiscent of the Disney comedies churned out in the 60's. Don Knotts plays a kiddieland "Astronaut" who applies to NASA. He is hired, not as an Astronaut as his family thinks, but a janitor.

To show up the Russians and show off American technology NASA decides to put someone in space who is totally unqualified. Naturally our hero gets the call with at first disastrous results. Not much action and storyline and as usual Knotts' love interest is mismatched. The film might seem like a breath of fresh air to parents considering what Hollywood often exposes us to these days. But contemporary kids will probably have a hard time sitting through The Reluctant Astronaut since there is no chase scenes, violence, sex, and foul language.
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The Reluctant Astronaut
Scarecrow-8826 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A kiddie ride astronaut in a small town, Roy Fleming (Don Knotts), might just get an opportunity to participate in a mission in space! Knotts fans should certainly enjoy this more than most. He gets to rely on his facial gifts and physical comedy in order to tickle your funny bone as his reactions to ongoing crises and accumulating problems are the film's main attraction. His "war hero" father, Buck (Arthur O'Connell), spreads the news of his son's inclusion in NASA's space program, although the letter of employment from the government is for a janitorial position! Roy learns that when he gets to Houston, and his demanding boss, Donelli (Jesse White), expects him to sweep, mop, and wax to his highest capability! But when Roy's friends and neighbors (well, Buck's friends and neighbors) becomes so swept up in and obsessively devoted to his "big promotion" (and the notion that he will be headed for space), the enthusiasm for a phony mission begins to overwhelm their hometown hero. A glorified return home where Roy must try and make the town believe he's been in training to be an astronaut, and an eventual greeting from Buck and two of his closest friends at Houston (where Roy must get into character and costume (astronaut suit), while leaving his janitorial post, leading them on a tour of the place) certainly cause the hometown hero a ton of grief.

Fans of Barney Fife will recognize one particular scene all too well: when all the guys are gathered around, Roy embellishes his training with only a kid (who knows a lot about space through programs on television and in school) calling him out as a phony. The swagger and self-flattery are most amusing if you are used to seeing Barney get all puffed up over some development that truly wasn't of any heroism he was responsible for. A majority of the film has Knotts all tied up in knots, as he tries to figure a way out from his predicament…living a lie. The picture with the real astronauts (making it into the hometown paper!) while holding a mop, the tour at Houston which results in mistakes he makes because he doesn't know what he's talking about, and his eventual trip into space (the Russians plan to send up a dentist, so the USA must best them in sending up the least possible candidate for a trip into space!) where if something might could go wrong it does are highlights in this implausible bit of fantasy.

As a vehicle for Knotts, "The Reluctant Astronaut" is ideal as it plays to his strengths. He even gets a very nice-looking romantic love interest in Joan Freeman (who had been elusive to him, eventually coming around). Slasher fans will know Freeman from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter as she was the mom of Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman)! Roy's fear of heights is played up especially when he continues to avoid airplane flights. I do think the film perhaps takes a bit too long to get to Knotts in space (its main draw), but the cast is full of delightful character actors (although, not quite as good as "The Ghost in Mr. Chicken" but close) to accompany the lead comic icon before the finale. Leslie Nielsen could be a surprise for his fans, playing his celebrated astronaut that Knotts befriends and respects totally straight…he is responsible for Knotts' eventual space flight! Some fun use of NASA footage and how Knotts is involved in mishaps involving the space program. Perhaps not his best solo comedy effort, but not bad, either…
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Low-budget nostalgia
moonspinner555 June 2007
After leaving TV's popular "The Andy Griffith Show", Don Knotts gave movie stardom a valiant try with a series of inane but matinée-pleasing comedy vehicles. Unfortunately, "The Reluctant Astronaut", filmed on the cheap (as were most of Knotts' movies), is much worse than his others. Don plays a small town schnook who gets accepted to Astronaut Training camp...but not as a candidate for space travel--they want him as their new janitor! Some may say the weak satire capitalizes on Americans' then-fresh fever for the new age of technology, but the flick is really just a dim excuse to keep restless children occupied. It gets off to a good start, with an OK set-up and nostalgic locations, but it becomes increasingly more spiritless and idiotic. * from ****
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Don Knotts in space. Mild hilarity ensures.
a_chinn24 December 2017
Typically silly Don Knotts vehicle has Don as the small-town operator of a carnival kiddie spaceship ride. Even though he's deathly afraid of heights, Don wants to be an astronaut and gets a letter from NASA offering him a job, except that's it's to be part of the custodial staff. This being a Don Knotts picture, Don mistakenly ends up in the astronaut program and hilarity ensures, or at least mildly funny comic moments of hilarity ensure with nervous nelly Knotts being helped through the program by macho astronaut Leslie Nielsen (which is funny in itself since Nielsen would later be the comic center of "Police Squad"/"Naked Gun" as Lt. Frank Drebin). Overall, "The Reluctant Astronaut" is not a classic, but it is mildly diverting. The film also features the debut of Melissa "Little House on the Prairie" Gilbert.
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Barney Fife in Space
TVholic4 March 2006
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.
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Review from a reluctant Don Knotts fan
jarrodmcdonald-123 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A few nights ago I watched THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT on Starz. Let's be frank, shall we? Don Knotts was hardly an American version of Laurence Olivier (he wasn't meant to be). I'd never seen this film before. In fact, aside from his TV sitcom work, I think the only film I'd ever seen him in was THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET since TCM aired it a few times. I wasn't impressed with LIMPET, and since I feel he's only ever playing variations of Barney Fife (including Ralph Furley), I wasn't expecting much when I sat down to watch RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT.

I have to admit it was pretty tough going. At around 100 minutes, the film is simply too long, padded with filler and the dialogue is atrocious. The main idea about a guy mistaken to be an astronaut is a gag that could have been done in twenty minutes. They stretch it out by having NASA choose him, the most unlikely of candidates, to go into outer space after all. Then we get the last sequence where he's in space, things malfunction and he eventually returns home safely (and gets the girl!). The whole thing was implausible, utterly ridiculous.

Could I have called it dumb or stupid? Sure. Did I do that? No. Because a light bulb went on and it suddenly occurred to me that I was not the intended audience. This is a kids' movie. Not for kids of today probably, but for kids in 1967. That was Don Knotts' audience, and those are the people Universal was selling tickets to, by making and releasing this film. So on that level, as harmless entertainment for children, it works. He's not Olivier, this is not Hamlet, and so what.
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This is your Space from there to there!
thejcowboy2211 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Another classic choice by the staff at Camp Ma-Ho-Ge in Upstate New York for Thursday movie night for all those bored campers from Long Island and New Rochelle, New York. While all the hippies and yippies assembled down the road for a three day rockfest called Woodstock. Us unfortunate campers watched these cheesy light comedies to pass the early evenings away. The Reluctant Astronaut is about an amusement park ride operator(Roy Fleming) played by the very timid and acrophobia laden Don Knotts. Clad in full Astronaut attire Roy Operates a space capsule ride with a bunch of children seated around him as he announces the destinations of deep space complete with meteor shower as outside the capsule the venerable Burt Mustin throws rocks at the space ride for full effect. Our journey from space end abruptly as Pamelyn Ferdin whispers to Roy, "I have to go to the bathroom." Quickest landing in history. Roy is so deathly afraid of heights that he need assistance to exit the ride as Burt helps him down each step. Roy has a girlfriend who also works at the park Ellie played by Joan Freeman. They plan on getting married soon but trouble ensues at home as Roy's learns that his obtrusive,overbearing Father Buck (Arthur O'Connell), enlisted him for the NASA space program in Houston, Texas. Buck is a proud World War One Vet and loves to reminisce about his days in the trenches. Roy would just love to have his to shaky feet planted firmly on the ground. Roy tried to tell his Dad otherwise but before he could respond there he was on the tarmack of Sweetwater Airport with luggage heading south for Houston. Roy is petrified of flying so he walks around the plane and heads for a deserted bus stop that just happens to go to Houston. This is unexplained throughout the picture and is a running gag throughout.Upon his arrival Roy is greeted by Astronaut Fred Gifford (Leslie Neilson) who takes a liking to the befuddled puny man with sloppy packed suitcase. Roy meets with his supervisor the loud and domineering Jesse White.Jesse barks out his work detail to a attentive Roy who realizes that his Father enrolled him in a janitorial job at the airbase rather than training for deep space. Roy is relegated to mop from space to space up to the far reaches of the hallway. Roy inadvertently gets into a picture of Astronauts while on his shift and the photo reaches his local Newspaper.Father Buck Fleming thinks his boy is on his way training in the riggers of Astronaut training but anything is far from that truth. Roy quickly asks his supervisor for a leave of absence to returns home and set the record straight. Roy arrives to a hero's welcome with friends and relatives all around as Roy is fielding questions and giving janitorial answers. All that time Roy couldn't tell his Father the truth about being a WB 1074 Janitorial engineer rather than a Rugged Spaceman.Roy was about to spill his situation as janitor but his Father interupts him and tells him he was no World war one Hero but a librarian who stayed State side. Roy asked, "But what about your injury to your shoulder?" Buck responded by saying, "The Encyclopedia Brittanica fell on it!" Roy returns to Houston as promised and continued sweeping and mopping his way across the celestial linoleum. More trouble ensues as Buck and his two friends travel down to Houston to visit Roy in action. Roy is warned as the three Sweetwater Men walks the outside grounds of the spacecenter. Roy continues the ruse wearing Fred Gifford's space suit and getting mixed up with dangerous equipment which causes more problems for Roy at every turn. Will Roy ever get the chance to reach space? I think with a few drinks at a local tavern and the help of a few scientist and Astronaut friends things just might work out. This movie personally hits home for the child with pushy parents making them do stuff they don't want to do. The comedy is consistent and the story has a good cadence with little gaps and little chatter. Physical scenes and cinematography show the scary effects of vertigo as Roy battles his fears. A must see for any Don knotts fan and these movie keep their uniformity in the Knotts genre if there is such a thing with comedy as the numerator and fear as the common denominator.
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