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Movie Review: Rocket Science
It always feels strange to walk out of a movie knowing you were probably the only one in the theater that didn't like it. It feels stranger still when you get home and look up that movie on Rottentomatoes--hoping for some sort of petty vindication--only to find out that the film in question has received an astonishing 100% positive reviews! Nevertheless, that was my experience with Rocket Science. While I recognize the obvious craft, talent and intellect that went into creating the film, I just couldn't wait for it to end.
What struck me as so strange about my reaction was that I absolutely loved--loved!--director Jeffrey Blitz's first film, Spellbound. Aside from being an endearing and hilarious documentary, Spellbound almost single-handedly put the Scripps National Spelling Bee on the cultural map. I mean, this year over 14 million people watched the finale of the Spelling Bee when it was broadcast on primetime television for the first time. How many documentaries (not directed by Michael Moore) can say they've had that sort of impact?
At its heart, Rocket Science is a story about the awkward sting of adolescent love. It tells that story, curiously, through forensics. Reece Thompson portrays the film's hapless protaganist, Hal Hefner. Hal, to put it mildly, was not designed to succeed in high school. He's skinny, stutters badly and has the obligatory bad haircut. One day, though, he's noticed by the sexy class debate champion, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick). She seems to think he has the potential to be a great public speaker so, of course, he instantly falls in love with her.
From there, the film finds it way through a series of quirky (too quirky?) adventures. As you can imagine (considering its snarky tone), things do not go well for Hal. Stutterers, after all, are seldom accomplished orators. In fact, that's one of my biggest beefs with the film--Hal's stutter felt totally phony. This may seem like a minor quibble but, remember, Hal is in virtually every scene of the movie. By the end of Rocket Science, I was ready to leap out of my seat and scream, "Just fucking say it already!!"
My other big complaint is that the film borrows liberally from two of my favorite flicks--The Royal Tenenbaums and Election. Trust me, if you've seen either of them, you will feel a powerful sense of familiarity while watching Rocket Science. The narrator may as well have been Alex Baldwin. Coupled with Hal's bad stutter and the precious oddness informing many of the other scenes (a weirdly violent older brother, a possibly gay Asian son of the weepy Asian doctor that Hal's mom is dating--whew!), Rocket Science is a movie I'm ready to forget.
Rocket Science opens August 10th in Los Angeles.
Photos courtesy of Picturehouse