With pitch-perfect comedy, hilariously heartbreaking characters and an almost uncomfortably honest approach to its teenage subject matter, “Rocket Science” may just be your new favorite movie.
Sure it doesn’t have the all-star celebrity line-up of “Knocked Up” or the multitude of penis pictures of “Superbad,” but it has a poignancy that is more winning than any comedy this year.
“Rocket Science” centers around the story of Hal Hefner, (Reece Thompson) a high school student who not only has family issues, problems at school and a less-than-active love life, but he also has a painfully obvious stutter. This speech impediment keeps him from speaking to people outside of his family or small social circle, one that includes few people besides his ridiculously unhelpful speech therapist.
Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendricks), a senior involved in (or unhealthily devoted to) Speech and Debate Club, recruits Hal for the team because her previous partner, Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D’Agosto), basically freaked at last year’s state championships, costing her the last trophy she needs to complete her arsenal of awards. Hal takes a chance – with public speaking and with Ginny – and ends up falling stutteringly head over heels in love with her. This sets into motion a series of events which culminate in a policy debate speech set to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
The cast is made up of quirky young actors, including Anna Kendricks, who is already well-known in the world of Broadway for a Tony nomination, the second youngest nomination ever. Reece Thompson, the adorably awkward Hal Hefner, has done small parts in movies and TV shows for years.
Kendricks and Thompson have a sort of electric chemistry – even though one is an overbearing, anal-retentive young woman and the other a seemingly delicate, socially stunted boy. The combination seems horrible, but their attraction is entirely believable in the hands of these two young stars.
The cast is full of other offbeat characters too – the son of Hal’s mother’s new boyfriend, the boy who lives across the street from Ginny and watches her from his upstairs window and Hal’s kleptomaniac brother, Earl, are just a few of the many people coming out of the corners in this film. There’s even a cameo from an actor everyone who has watched TV in the last three months will recognize: Jonah Hill from both “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” who has a miniscule bit part as a philosophy-loving dude Hal talks to occasionally when he’s in the library.
The part is just big enough to be a complete surprise, but small enough to be a good balance between his newfound fame and the hilarity he brings to his character here.
Jeffrey Blitz directs the movie seamlessly. He is the same director who made “Spellbound,” a documentary about the majorly intense Scripps Spelling Bee, and he received a
Directing award at Sundance Film Festival for “Rocket Science.”
Combined with an awesome soundtrack, “Rocket Science” will have you wanting to throw cellos into every house you see.