Magazine article Newsweek

Not Another Teen Movie; 'Rocket Science' Has a Big Brain-And a Bigger Heart

Magazine article Newsweek

Not Another Teen Movie; 'Rocket Science' Has a Big Brain-And a Bigger Heart

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen

Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson) is a stutterer. His problem is so severe that he has to practice ordering pizza as he stands in line at his high-school cafeteria--and has to settle for sloppy Joes because he can't get the words out fast enough. Hal would seem to be the least likely candidate in the world to join the school's debate team, yet he's recruited by its alluring, motormouthed star, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), to replace her former partner, the legendary Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto), after he suffers an onstage meltdown at the New Jersey State Finals and drops out of school.

"Rocket Science" joins a long line of movies about teenage outcasts struggling to find their place in the world; two years ago the prize entry was "Thumbsucker." But this sharp and painfully funny coming-of-age story--a hyperarticulate comedy about an inarticulate boy--manages to avoid just about every cliche of the genre. Each time you fear it's going to go for the obvious, it upends your expectations. Writer-director Jeffrey Blitz previously made the irresistible 2002 documentary "Spellbound," about kids in spelling bees. "Rocket Science" is his first dramatic feature, and it has a quirky literary voice all its own--self-conscious, but so sure-footed it earns its right to preen now and then.

When Hal becomes the focus of Ginny's fierce attention, he's not just surprised, he's smitten. Love and sex are constantly on his mind, and everywhere he turns he sees people smooching, a reminder of his inexperience. …

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