What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this quirky teen comedy is pretty mild for an R-rated film (think Rushmore rather than Superbad). It does include some language ("s--t," "ass," etc.), shots of teens kissing, a couple of conversations about sex, and one scene of the protagonist drinking, but for the most part it's a clever, unconventional teen flick that follows a misfit, stuttering guy who joins the school debate team.
What's the story?
Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson) isn't your typical high-school antihero. He's not an overachiever like Tracy Flint (Election) or Max Fischer (Rushmore). Nor is he an all-out nerd like Napoleon Dynamite. He's a disfluent (i.e. a severe stutterer) underdog who spends part of his day in special-needs therapy with a silent girl. On the bus one afternoon, a lovely girl named Ginny (Anna Kendrick) invites Hal to join the debate team, swearing that all of the "deformed" debaters rock, because they have something to prove. Hal finds Ginny's aura of success and self-confidence (not to mention sex appeal) intoxicating, so he gives debating a go, under Ginny's tutelage and the direction of the gung-ho coach (character actress Margo Martindale).
Is it any good?
Orbiting Hal on his surprising search for his voice -- to be a champion debater, you have to cram an astonishing amount of words into each second, not an easy feat for a stutterer -- are three other misfits: his agenda-keeping older brother (Vincent Piazza), his quietly closeted friend (Aaron Yoo), and Ginny's young peeping neighbor (Josh Kay). Each contributes to a couple of touching, humorous scenes.
With a few unexpected plot twists, writer-director Jeffrey Blitz admirably keeps ROCKET SCIENCE from devolving into Rocky-lite. Sometimes when the odds are stacked so high against a kid like Hal, no amount of hard work will end in victory. Sometimes it's the trying itself that's important.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the appeal of "misfit" teen heroes, from Max Fischer in Rushmore to Napoleon Dynamite. What characteristics do these kinds of characters have in common? What characteristics do their movies have in common? Is it more fun to watch movies about this kind of teenager or more "mainstream" teens? Why? Who do you identify with more? Families can also discuss the Hefner parents' divorce and how it affects both boys.