Rocket Science is about a seemingly normal teenage boy named Hal Hefner, played by newcomer Reece Thompson. Unlike the notorious playboy Hugh Hefner, Hal is not known for his connections with women.
In actuality, he is known for his slouching posture, his nerdy looks, and his unforgiving stutter. Hal lives with his depressing mother, played by Lisbeth Bartlett, and his obsessive-compulsive Earl, played by Vincent Piazza. The father is shown walking out on the family in the first scene of the movie.
Hal is often seen trudging through the school hallways with a brown sweatshirt, a perpetual frown, and a gray suitcase. The suitcase symbolizes Hal’s desire to escape his unremorseful stutter or in fact his brutal life.
Because it is difficult for Hal to voice his emotions and opinions, he must confine himself into a world of solitude. When Hal feels flustered or embarrassed during school, he races out of the classroom at full speed into a janitor’s closet. There, no one can hear his voice, see him fail or ultimately judge him.
Everything changes when, on a bus ride home, Hal is confronted by the school’s debate team champion, Ginny Ryerson, who is played by impressive actress Anna Kendrick. Ginny is a fast-spoken, highly opinionated, attitude-filled girl who seems to be everything Hal desires.
Ginny, with her harshness and aspiration, persuades Hal to join the debate team, a place Hal would never have expected himself to be.
Hal becomes infatuated with Ginny for she, for at least the time being, opens a door in Hal’s life. Unfortunately, Ginny leaves the door wide open with plenty of room for refusal and rejection.
When all seems to be going well, Ginny leaves the school and finds a new debate partner. The movie leaves Hal to fill the void in his heart on his own.
Although Rocket Science is for the most part an enjoyable film, with a bright script and a relatively skillful director, Reece Thompson fails to bring the character Hal to the next dimension. Instead, it is the supporting characters who really shine throughout the movie.
Although this is only her second film, Anna Kendrick delivers an excellent performance as a win-obsessed girl who lives life on the fast lane. Though Ginny’s intentions for leaving Hal are never clear, the character never becomes mean enough to become the antagonist.
Vincent Piazza, who plays Hal’s brother Earl, creates an individual who is truly unique. He becomes a crazy and sometimes abusive sibling who, like Hal, is just looking for some kind of affirmation in his life.
Even if Rocket Science rejuvenated the teen angst genre, it is not original enough to make a long-lasting impression. Rocket Science is an upgraded, wittier version of Napoleon Dynamite, and yet it does not capture teenage discomfort quite like Little Miss Sunshine or Heathers. Rocket Science is literally the cake without the icing. It lacks the zest and charisma for a long-lasting impression. Like Hal himself, Rocket Science is stuck in the middle: a good film, with good intentions that does not quite reach its full potential.]]>