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Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Steven Mackintosh, Tate Donovan, Charlie Rowe, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor

Director: Dexter Fletcher

According to the World Wide Web (but remember to take its 'information' with as large a pinch of salt as you can stomach), Daniel Radcliffe was considered to play Elton John.

Fortunately much-needed filmgoing magic intervened and Egerton rightly won the role.

Egerton (best remembered perhaps, from the two 'Kingsman' movies) hits all the right notes both singing and portraying Elton John warts (and there are plenty) and all in this unexpectedly entertaining musical biopic which - while there's no guarantee that it tells all - tells enough to be worth paying to see which, given today's high cost of filmgoing, is praise indeed.

The rousing Hollywood-style musical biopic, which has taken years to make it to the screen and failed - mercifully as it transpires - to do it as a sanitised-for-family entertainment Disney movie, now hits the screen a glitzy must-see entertainment splendidly served up on both sides of the camera.

The synopsis says it all: 'Based on a true fantasy, Rocketman showcases the formative years of Elton John's musical career, featuring all the excess and glamour the star is known and loved for - the glitzy tale of the rise of one of Britain's most iconic music-men'.

Lee Billy Elliot Hall's strong screenplay introduces us to young musical prodigy Reg Dwight (Egerton) who, escaping an unhappy home life and hating his father, bonds with his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin (Bell, first rate) and, promoted as a pop icon, finds international fame and fortune.

He becomes a millionaire, we're told, at 25.

Which, happily as portrayed here, he deserves to be, by achieving stardom in the States and around the world in eighty ways, in a riveting blend of drama, melodrama and superbly-staged musical numbers worthy of Hollywood genre filmmaking at its most appealing.

Producers John and his husband David Furnish have seen to it that Hall's script pulls surprisingly few punches for a major (and patently expensive) audience-aimed movie. As John states 'I'm a homosexual. A poofter!', director Fletcher delivers the first unadulterated gay sex scene to feature in a major studio production while John's potent narcotics addiction (he tells his mother he has taken every drug known to man) is made patent and powerfully dramatic.

What gives the film additional impact is that - despite its subject's rise to fame and fortune - his progress is never artificially sweetened, Hollywood-style. When he is shown snorting, the reality of his drug use is all too effectively conveyed, so that when he takes a suicide jump into an American swimming pool, his action is credible and not simply a scene motivated by shock-seeking.

Fletcher (who salvaged Bohemian Rhapsody when the Queen biopic parted ways with original director Bryan Singer) directs for maximum dramatic effect and succeeds all the way, grabbing you from the start when John, drugged up and bizarrely wearing fancy dress that makes him resemble a cross between a giant scarlet rooster and a devil, complete with horns, invades a therapy group and proceeds to wreak emotional havoc by telling his story.

The line 'I wish I was someone else' cleverly drives the riveting story, as when John states, 'you can do anything you want. You can be anyone you want' he goes on to prove it to the hilt, justifying his statement, 'People don't pay to see Reg Dwight! They pay to see Elton John'.

In fact, audiences will of course actually be paying to see Egerton as John: And they'll get their money's worth.

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2019. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour.
121 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 23 May 2019