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Rocket Science
Rocket Science
Actors: Reece Daniel Thompson, Anna Kendrick, Nicholas D'Agosto, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Candace Scholz
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     1hr 41min

Picturehouse and HBO Films present a story about Hal Hefner, an ordinary, shy 15 year-old boy who's struggling to make it through High School. On top of his parents' recent divorce and an obsessive- compulsive, kleptomania...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Reece Daniel Thompson, Anna Kendrick, Nicholas D'Agosto, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Candace Scholz
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music Artists, Classic Rock, Comedy, Drama, Musicals
Studio: Hbo Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 41min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Best film so far of 2007
Howard Schumann | Vancouver, B.C. | 11/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For some, the joys of being a teenager include excelling at sports, having a girlfriend or boyfriend, being part of a close circle of friends, or just having fun. For others, there is only the constant feeling of being an outsider looking in. For some, even the thought of getting out of bed in the morning to go to school is filled with dread. Case in point - Hal Hefner, a fifteen year old attending Plainsboro High School in New Jersey, who is trying to make sense of growing up but is burdened by a stutter so debilitating that he cannot even tell the cafeteria worker at school that he wants pizza instead of fish. Rocket Science, the second feature by Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound), who overcame his own stuttering disability, is a teen comedy that poignantly captures the painful loneliness of adolescence.

While on paper Rocket Science sounds like other coming of age films such as Election and Rushmore, it manages to capture something unique and very special about being a teenager without having to rely on grossness, stereotypes, or implausible situations. Brilliantly played by Vancouver actor Reece Thompson, Hal's sweetness and innocence is totally captivating and we identify with his pain and root for him to succeed. His family support, however, is virtually nonexistent. His brother Earl (Vincent Piazza) is a compulsive thief and bully who calls him by girls' names, his father has moved out of the house and his mother (Lizbeth Bartlett) has a Korean boyfriend, a Small Claims judge, (Steve Park) who laughs inappropriately and whose son Heston (Aaron Yu), a bisexual, shows an unusual amount of interest in him.

Hal has a speech therapist, Mr. Lewinsky (Maury Ginsberg), but he is so incompetent that he tells him that he wishes Hal was hyperactive so he would know how to treat him. Under these circumstances, the last place he would want to be is on the high school debating team, a collection of driven, super-confident word magicians who can speak with authority at breakneck speed on both sides of an issue. Surprisingly however, Hal is recruited by top debater Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) to be her debate partner after her former partner Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto) went blank at last year's championship match.

Ginny, a charming but overly aggressive super student, tells Hal that "deformed people" make good competitors because they have so much anger to express. Hal's first inclination is to say no but he is so taken with Ginny and flattered that someone could see some possibility in him that he accepts. Giving it the old high school try, he stumbles badly both in pursuing his romance and in debating the subject of sexual abstinence in high school, so badly in fact that he often has to hide in the janitor's closet from embarrassment.

Mr. Lewinsky advises Hal to try singing the words of the debate to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic, or speaking with a foreign accent and he does both with hilarious effect. Partly out of revenge and partly out of desperation, he turns to failed debater Ben Wekselbaum, now working in Trenton in a cleaners, to be his new partner after Ginny transfers to a different school. The ending is ripe for the big debate in which all the pieces fit neatly together but Blitz does not go there. Instead he relies on the inner strength of the characters to see them through, not on a contrived narrative.

While there are some predictably oddball characters like Philosophy major Lionel (Jonah Hill), pint-sized Josh (Lewis Garrles) who spies on Ginny for him (and models her bra that he has stolen), and an older couple who practice the Kama Sutra and play Violent Femmes "Blister In The Sun" duets on the cello and piano, Rocket Science has few false notes. It is wise, honest, funny, touching, and painfully sad with Oscar-caliber performances. It's not rocket science to figure out why it is the best film so far of 2007.
"To discover opportunity in misery."
E. Bukowsky | NY United States | 08/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The word "pathetic" may be defined as "causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, and sorrow." This would be an accurate depiction of fifteen-year-old Hal Hefner's life. He is a short, homely, and socially inept teen; he stutters so badly that he cannot even ask for the food he wants in the school cafeteria; his parents break up after a bitter fight; his older brother is a petty thief and bully who threatens him constantly; his mother takes up with a Korean judge who has a braying laugh and gropes Mom in public. For a short while, Hal spots a glimmer of light on his otherwise bleak horizon. Ginny Ryerson, star of his high school debate team, recruits him to replace her partner, who suffered a sudden meltdown. She proceeds to spend a great deal of time preparing Hal for the rigors of public speaking. How can this boy, who can barely say his own name, make it as a champion debater? Even more troubling, Hal falls in love with Ginny, and he allows himself to believe that maybe she cares for him as well.

Jeffrey Blitz, who wrote and directed this quirky film, thumbs his nose at conventional movies about dysfunctional teenagers. You know the drill: Nerdy kid is teased unmercifully and hides in a janitor's closet to escape his miserable existence. Suddenly, he has the chance of a lifetime to show everyone his true worth. He rises to the occasion and demonstrates that he had star potential all along. The icing on the cake is that he gets the beautiful girl to recognize his inner hunk, as well. As if.

Blitz doesn't buy into this ridiculous fantasy. Instead, he mines Hal's predicament for belly laughs. See Hal looking decidedly uncool while schlepping a suitcase with wheels to school every day; see Hal burying his face under his pillow as he cringes while his mother loudly makes love to her new beau; see Hal fantasizing about "going to the next level" with Ginny, a girl who is clearly out of his league. Each of us, whether or not we have a physical or emotional impediment, can relate to Hal's suffering. We have all felt humiliated in front of our peers at one time or another. We have all longed for that handsome or beautiful student across the room, who is obviously too good for us. Most of us have wanted to trade in our parents for more respectable models. Although Hal doesn't have that life-changing epiphany that brings a tear to the moviegoer's eye, he gradually learns to stand up for himself. Even though Hal's rebellion proves to be largely ineffectual, the fact that he worked up the nerve to fight back helps this confused and lonely young man come to the realization that he is not worthless, and that if he hangs in there long enough, life might conceivably get a little better.

If you see this movie for no other reason, go to marvel at Reece Thompson's impeccable portrait of the bumbling Hal. Not only does Thompson stutter believably (not easy), but he performs perfect pratfalls, and somehow evokes compassion for a character who could easily have been merely lamentable and wretched. Anna Kendrick is excellent as Ginny Ryerson, an upper class brainiac who is as manipulative and cruel as she is self-centered. Steve Park is a hoot as Judge Pete, the new squeeze who aggressively romances Hal's mom, much to her sons' discomfiture. Nicholas D'Agosto is impressive in a small but pivotal role as Ben Wekselbaum, a handsome and brilliant teenager with so much potential that he has nowhere to go but down.

"Rocket Science" is an original, touching, and bittersweet coming-of-age film about Hal's excruciating and hilarious transition from child to adult. As we watch our hero struggle and root for him to get a life, we come to a sudden realization. Not everyone can be a winner in the conventional sense, and nice guys often do finish last. Sometimes just surviving from one day to the next is a major triumph of sorts; for some people, patience is not just a virtue but it is also a necessary tactic for staying optimistic while waiting for that elusive silver lining to appear."
Another teen-age movie? Yes, and this one is good, especiall
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I hope old Hollywood and what's become the new Hollywood, namely the Sundance Film Festival, haven't yet established that the angst of suburban high school life really is a metaphor for all those life lessons they want to share with us. Rocket Science is one more in a long line of sensitive and not-so-sensitive teen-age movies. Surprisingly, this one is pretty good. On the other hand, if you're not prepared early on to recognize low-key exaggeration to achieve humor and make a point ("Wait a minute, why didn't Hal just point to the pizza?") you might leave the theater scratching your head.

Hal is Hal Hefner (Reese Thompson), a schlumping, unhappy, shy high school student with a stutter. The stutter, in fact, is more like a series of strangled gargles. He knows the answers; he has ideas...and he simply can't get them out. When the captain of the debating team, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) recruits him to be her partner, it's because, she says, she can see his potential. Turns out she has some other, not so altruistic, motives. Hal first finds infatuation and what he thinks is love for this cute, smart high school star. He decides he'll join the debate team, even though he has never been able to get more than a sentence or two out of his mouth, because Ginny wants him to. Hal also has to deal with an older brother who bullies and steals, the break-up of his parents' marriage, and his mother taking up with the father of a schoolmate. Through it all, Hal perseveres. Those who think this movie will be a series of crude jokes and high school hormone scenes will be disappointed. Of course, those who think Hal will overcome that strangulating stammer, will win Ginny's heart and the two will face a tense debating contest which will leave them state champs...are going to be disappointed, too.

What Hal faces is a series of struggles and challenges, keyed to the awful inexperience and misunderstandings of adolescence. The director and writer, Jeffrey Blitz, who gave us the documentary Spellbound, sets up Hal and his world as a series of situations for Hal to deal with. There is no self-pity from Hal. As the movie progresses we figure out that Hal is not going to have an epiphany of speech or love, but that he's going to manage, even if just barely at times. Along the way we can enjoy what Blitz gives Hal...a high school speech counselor who only knows about hyper-active kids; Hal's continuing battle to deal with the choice of pizza or fish in the cafeteria; Ginny Ryerson's neighbors, a couple who work through their marriage issues with a cello, a piano and a copy of the illustrated Kama Sutra; the debate technique of "spreading," or cramming a breathless, fast-talking debate position into 30 seconds (ten if you're responding). I hope this is a Blitz invention. It causes some awe-inspiring situations...when a debater goes dry, when Hal tries, when Ginny wows 'em...but it seems as unnatural a part of real debate technique as miniature poodles are to dogs.

And at the close? "Love shouldn't be as complicated as rocket science," Hal says to his father. Most of us over the age of 30 have figured out that it shouldn't be, but usually is. Rocket Science is a good-natured, good-humored movie about a kid with a stammer who is willing to try for the sake of love. Is it a realistic slice of high school life? I wouldn't know. I tried my best to forget my high school years as quickly as I could.

For those who enjoy their high school movies filled with double-dealing, back-stabbing, uneasy laughter and wickedly sharp irony, you can't do better than Alexander Payne's black comedy, Election. Reese Witherspoon's over-achieving Tracy Flick would leave Ginny Ryerson with the stammer and Hal Hefner nothing but a moist lump in the janitor's closet."
Most Under-Rated and Under-Seen Film of 2007.
Wesley Johnson | PHX, AZ | 01/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Well before JUNO became the indy cult film of the year, Jeffery Blitz helmed this masterpiece of wit and quirkery. For my money, Reece Thompson's performance is every ounce as lovable as Ellen Page's, and even better in the sense that it was a tougher character to portray--believably. It was my favorite film of 2007, and it is purely tragic that so few people have seen it (It didn't even make a million dollars). So why does such a brilliant film go so unnoticed? I am here to tell you that you're cooler than the rest of the crowd if you've seen Rocket Science."