Troy Patterson
July 27, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

October Sky

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
Wide Release Date
02/19/99
performer
Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Jake Gyllenhaal
director
Joe Johnston
distributor
Universal
author
Lewis Colick
genre
Drama

We gave it a C

Duller than rocket science and more reliant on formulas, October Sky — an unnaturally earnest ”inspirational” tale which was a small sleeper hit in theaters last spring — re-creates the West Virginia adolescence of former NASA engineer Homer Hickam. We watch Hickam and his pallies, inspired by the Sputnik launch, overcome their town’s parochialism and build a little missile of their own. Director Joe Johnston, who charted a similar trajectory in ”The Rocketeer,” mines a lode of period and genre clichés; Gyllenhaal seems too sophisticated to be an Appalachian youth; Laura Dern doesn’t have much screen time as a nurturing science teacher, but her hair looks terrific.

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