Rocket Science (Missed Movies)

One is tempted to compare Rocket Science (2007) to other quirky adolescent comedies like Rushmore (1998) and Napoleon Dynamite (2004). Rocket Science writer-director Jeffrey Blitz does appear influenced by Rushmore, using music that would not feel out of place in that movie, and he features a young hero, played by Reece Thompson, who looks a bit like Jason Schwartzman, the star of Rushmore. But Rocket Science is its own movie and one worth seeking out.

Rocket Science tells the story of the 15-year-old Hal Hefner (Thompson), who has a bad stutter but joins the high school debate team to be near the team’s star, played by Anna Kendrick, who has gone on to star in other films like Up in the Air (2009). It took me awhile before I warmed to Rocket Science, but the film slowly draws you in. Despite featuring some cliche’s of this genre, like “the obnoxious brother,” the movie does not go for easy or predictable resolutions.

At the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Blitz won the Dramatic Directing Award, and the movie garnered some attention but not as much as other similar movies. I am tempted to say, “if you liked Rushmore, you’ll like Rocket Science,” but actually, if you go in looking for something like Director Wes Anderson’s Rushmore you will probably be disappointed.

But if you are looking for a different kind of coming-of-age film that maintains a fair amount of realism, this film that is based in part on Blitz’s own adolescence is worth the rental. And at least for now, the full film is on YouTube, while the trailer is below.

Other Reviews Because Why Should You Trust Me?: Rotten Tomatoes gives Rocket Science an 84% Critics Rating and a 71% Audience Rating. (Rushmore has a similar Critics Rating at 87% but a much higher audience rating at 91%.) Margaret Pomeranz from Australia’s At the Movies said the film is “wryly funny in parts, poignant, interesting, frustrating, but never less than really engaging.” On the other hand, David Cornelius at DVDTalk praises the cast but said the film “toss[es] us attention-grabbing nuttiness that never once feels earned, or needed, or true.”

{Missed Movies is our continuing series on good films you might have missed because they did not receive the recognition they deserved when released.}

What did you think of Rocket Science? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    How Does Moonrise Kingdom Rank Among Wes Anderson’s Films? (Short Review)

    Movie fans probably already know if they will like the new film Moonrise Kingdom (2012). If you like director Wes Anderson‘s other films, you will probably like Moonrise Kingdom. It has a similar look to his other films and his usual quirky characters. So the most helpful question for a review is: Where does Moonrise Kingdom fall on the scale of Wes Anderson films?

    Moonrise Kingdom follows the exploits of a boy and girl who run away together while parents, a sheriff, and a scout troop search for the two. The colorful movie stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the two runaways, along with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Anderson-movie-regular Bill Murray. There are smaller appearances by Harvey Keitel, another Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman, and a funny narrating role by Bob Balaban dressed in red. The movie has the usual Anderson touch of using classic songs to provide mood, and he uses some Hank Williams recordings like “Kaw-Liga.”

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have enjoyed all of Wes Anderson’s movies. I think Rushmore (1998) is a wonderful film, and I also thoroughly enjoyed The Royal Tennenbaums (2001). I also enjoyed his one foray so far into animation and using another author’s story in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). I liked his debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996), although he has surpassed that work. For me, Moonrise Kingdom did not exceed Rushmore or The Royal Tennenbaums, but I enjoyed it much more than The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2001).

    Moonrise Kingdom has a more linear story than some of his movies, like the intertwining The Royal Tennenbaums. So in some ways it may seem like a smaller film than his other works. But it has genuine laugh-out-loud moments while also being a lyrical memory of early 1960s childhood innocence. Overall, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

    Conclusion? Moonrise Kingdom may not blow you away, but it is a welcome entertaining escape from the summer blockbusters. In the following video, Bill Murray takes you on a tour of the film.

    Other Reviews Because Why Should You Trust Me? Rotten Tomatoes currently has Moonrise Kingdom with an excellent 95% critics rating and a 92% audience rating. Joe Williams at the St. Louis Dispatch argues that it is the best movie of the year so far. Boo Allen at the Denton Record Chronicle (TX) is one of the few dissenters, claiming that the attempts at charming dialogue passages “end up sounding quaint, forced and often ridiculous.”

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