is a 1997 Walt Disney-produced comic science-fiction film, directed by Stuart Gillard, and starred Harland Williams, Jessica Lundy, William Sadler and Jeffery DeMunn.
Williams stars as an eccentric NASA programmer named Fred Z Randall, who is given the chance to go travel on an eight-month journey to Mars
— manned by the mission commander William Overbeck (Sadler) — as a replacement computer specialist, despite having no experience as an astronaut. When the crew is put to hypersleep
to shorten the journey, a chimp named Ulysses
switches pods with the reluctant Fred, disrupting his sleep months earlier than everyone else during the journey.
With the crew asleep, Fred has no choice but to amuse himself with data studies of Mars and creating a Sistine Chapel-style painting on the ceiling with the supplies provided. Meanwhile on Earth, the crew discover weather reports of a sandstorm on the planet and become concerned over the astronauts’ safety, but the flight director Paul Wick (DeMunn) is adamant to continue the mission.
With no usable supplies and a sandstorm on the way, Hilarity Ensues
as the flight crew eventually reach their destination.
The film provides examples of the following tropes:
- Artistic License – Physics: The film isn't trying to be on the hard end of the scale, mostly focusing on the comedy. For example, there doesn't appear to be a communications lag between mission control back on Earth and the astronauts on Mars, despite the fact that Mars is about 3 light minutes away (that's the closest distance ever recorded between the two planets). This means that any conversation would require the crew to wait 3 minutes for their message to get to Earth, mission control to reply, and then wait 3 more minutes for the reply to get to Mars.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: When talking to the President, he starts singing "I've Got The Whole World in My Hand". Everyone, including the President, picks up the song. Then Fred switches to other languages, and we're shown people all over the world singing along with him, despite what he's singing not being even remotely close to the original meaning, just a bunch of foreign words thrown together.
- Centrifugal Gravity: Supposedly achieved by spinning the craft, but the craft is only shown to be barely spinning, while everyone is walking around as if they were on Earth.
- Chekhov's Gun: Bud's commemorative coin ends up saving the day.
- The re-wiring test, which Fred fails spectacularly, comes back to bite him, when he has to do it for real in even worse conditions (the lander is falling and spinning wildly). Thanks to Bud talking to him, he manages to do it in under 2 minutes.
- Fred holding the new breath record also comes back when he switches air supplies with Ulysses so they can get back to the lander. In fact, just about every one of the training tests comes back - his G-resistance helps during the dead spin the lander is in when he gets the re-wiring down.
- Could Have Avoided This Plot: If they waited two years to train another asteroid for the Mars mission, then they wouldn't have chosen a computer programmer as a replacement and they wouldn't have suffered the storms in Mars that they haven't predicted. They would have but Wick was against this decision because he cares more about the mission and the public image than the crew's well-being, claiming everyone would lose faith in NASA. Then again, we wouldn't have much of a movie.
- Crisis Makes Perfect: Fred doesn't have a chance at the re-wiring test until it actually counts. Everything else he goes through without a problem.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The trained chimp Ulysses ends forcing Fred to spend 8 months alone instead of in hyper-sleep... twice.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: As expected, when Fred is trying out for the position of the mission's computer specialist, he has to undergo a number of physical and mental tests. He is also placed in a sensory deprivation tank for 24 hours with his competition, an actual astronaut named Gordon Peacock, in a tank next to his. The two tanks are not actually isolated from one another, just the outside world, which results in Peacock going crazy from Fred's unending singing, ball bouncing, and sock puppet theater. When the tanks are opened after 24 hours, Peacock is shown sitting with his pants tied around his head, while Fred asks for more time to finish the play. This serves him well, when he gets stuck having to spend 8 months alone aboard the Aries. He does appear to temporarily go crazy (dressed like a caveman), but he quickly regains his sanity.
- Human Popsicle: To conserve supplies and shorten the journey, the crew is put into hyper-sleep pods. There are three human-sized pods and one chimp-sized. The monkey Ulysses ends up taking Fred's pod, resulting in Fred staying awake all this time. All NASA had to do was put four identical pods in the Aries, and none of this wouldn't have happened.
- Implausible Deniability: One of the Running Gags is Fred's constant "It wasn't me!" whenever he screws something up. Thanks to him slipping and falling to the Martian surface before Overbeck can take the first step, they end up being the first words spoken on Mars.
- Just in Time: Fred manages to restart the lander's engines moments before it hits the Martian surface, allowing Overbeck to pilot the lander into orbit.
- Love Interest: Astronaut Julie Ford to Fred, although she gets very little screen time due to being in hypersleep. She thinks Fred is a moron at first, but he earns her respect by the end, and they end up dancing in zero-g shortly before the credits roll.
- Mama Bear: When Overbeck is trapped under a flipped rover, Fred tries to get him out, only for Overbeck to tell him to leave him behind. Fred demands that Overbeck call him "Mommy", supposedly to jump-start Fred's maternal instincts and giving him the extra strength to lift the rover. It seems to work.
- Momma's Boy: Fred
Fred's mom: I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches just like you like 'em. It's a long trip.
Fred: (getting ready to leave for NASA) I'm not even hungry, honestly.
Mom: Look, there's a little moon, a star , and a little rocket.
Fred: I'm thirty years old, mom! I'm almost a full grown (voice cracks) man! (Mom waits for him to take a sandwich) I'll take the rocket.
- My Greatest Failure: Discussed by Bud about the Apollo 13 mission. Before the launch, he knew there was a minor glitch but Wick told him he was overreacting. Looking back he realize he had every authority to postpone the launch until it's checked, but he didn't and if the Apollo 13 crew hadn't make it home then it would have truly been his fault. He won't let it happen with the Aries too.
- Old Shame: Bud has been disgraced ever since he's been blamed for Apollo 13.
- The Stinger: A Martian is shown stealing Fred's American flag underwear and wearing it.
- Time Passes Montage: Fred falls asleep inside a stasis chamber made for a chimp (who has taken Fred's chamber) preceding a montage of space nebulae, before then showing him waking up and finding that he hasn't even been asleep for a whole day (out of eight months of stasis intended).
- This Cannot Be!: Wick's reactions when the Aries crew are experiencing the storms.
"Ra-Randall No That's impossible. Our weather pattern analysis..."
- Toilet Humor: Several times.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Wick was told to "go home" after it was confirmed about the storms and Bud takes command.
- You Are in Command Now: Bud takes over after Wick was told to leave.
- You Have to Believe Me: Bud tries to warn him about the sudden sandstorms.
Wick: I have a room full of experts telling me everything's just peachy. And you walk up to me and tell me to reconsider a $40 billion mission. Just because you have a hunch?
Bud: That's right!