Don Knotts is Roy Fleming, a small town kiddie-ride operator who is deathly afraid of heights. After learning that his father has signed him up for the space program, Roy reluctantly heads for Houston, only to find out upon arriving that his job is a janitor, not an astronaut.
Anxious to live up to the expectations of his domineering father, Roy manages to keep up a facade of being an astronaut to his family and friends. 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.
Don Knotts ... Roy Fleming
Leslie Nielsen ... Major Fred Gifford
Joan Freeman ... Ellie Jackson
Jesse White ... Donelli
Jeanette Nolan ... Mrs. Fleming
Frank McGrath ... Plank
Arthur O'Connell ... Buck Fleming
Joan Shawlee ... Blonde in Bar
Guy Raymond ... Bert
Nydia Westman ... Aunt Zena
Paul Hartman ... Rush
Robert F. Simon ... Cervantes (as Robert Simon)
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.
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.
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.