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Magical Connection: Rocket Gibraltar (1988)

Review Copyright Roger Zotti, 2000


In Rocket Gibraltar Lancaster plays writer and teacher Levi Rockwell, who in the 1950s, was blacklisted.

During a family weekend gathering at his remote Long Island home to celebrate his 77th birthday, Rockwell's grandchildren overhear the family physician tell him he hasn't long to live. And when they learn he wants a Viking funeral, the children vow to carry out his last wish.


At the time, the splendid supporting cast was a bunch of unknowns: Bill Pullman, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Sinead Cusack, John Glover, and Macaulay Culkin. (Add cameos by Frasier's David Hyde Pierce and NYPD Blue's James McDaniel.)

Especially memorable is Culkin as Blue, Rockwell's five-year-old grandson. The youngster has a wonderful magical connection with his grandfather. When Rockwell collapses, for example, Blue, miles away, knows about it and pedals back to help him.

But the interaction between the actors off the set, when they first met, wasn't close.

Lancaster told the eight-year-old that he had heard good things about him and was looking forward to working with him.

"I hope you'll enjoy working with me," he added. After asking the youngster if he could give him any advice, Culkin's response - "Just don't step on my lines" - sent Lancaster's blood pressure sky high.

"Despite the rocky start, however, the old man and the kid got along fine," wrote Gary Fishgall in Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster.


An entertaining and often touching film, its atmosphere is just right and Culkin is incomparably good as young Blue.

Though the adults and their problems are interesting, the children make the film. Lancaster called Rocket Gibraltar a sleeper, saying it was "...a story about a family... it's almost not a story. You're just seeing how people behave."

Buford said Rocket Gibraltar, ignored critically and commercially, with time became "another, better movie."

    Levi Rockwell. . .Burt Lancaster
    Aggie Rockwell. . .Suzy Amis
    Rose Black. . .Patricia Clarkson
    Ruby Hanson. . .Frances Conroy
    Amanda Rockwell. . .Sinead Cusak
    Rolo Rockwell. . .John Glover
    Dwayne Hanson. . .Kevin Spacey
    Cy Blue Black. . .Macaulay Culkin

    Directed by: Daniel Petrie
    Writer: Amos Poe

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