Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content
Emmys 2017
Every unforgettable moment, every gorgeous dress.Click here


Rocket Science

Posted on

Jim Bridges

Rocket Science

Current Status:
In Season
98 minutes
Limited Release Date:
Anna Kendrick, Reece Daniel Thompson
Jeffrey Blitz
HBO Films, Picturehouse
Jeffrey Blitz
Drama, Comedy

We gave it a C

Rocket Science is one of those terminally annoying, depressive-yet-coy Sundance faves in which the tale of a mopey teen misfit unfolds behind a hard candy shell of irony. The movie, set in Plainsboro, N.J., is too hip to ask you to feel sorry for Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson), a gawky, floppy-haired high school stutterer. Yet it never explores his psychology or anguish. His stuttering is presented as the behavioral equivalent of a dysfunctional halo — a trait that confers outsider status, and the ”innocence” that goes with it. The director, Jeffrey Blitz, who made the acclaimed documentary Spellbound (and who has discussed growing up as a stutterer himself), doesn’t trust the audience to respond to the situations he creates. He turns everything into a glib indie commercial, from the speech pathologist who tells Hal ”It’s really a shame you’re not hyperactive” to the brainiac Ginny (Anna Kendrick), who speaks in mile-a-minute sentences and pushes him onto the debate team.

Why filter such a personal story through the attitudinal tics of Wes Anderson and Napoleon Dynamite, especially if you’re going to do it with about one-third the skill? Nothing in Rocket Science quite parses. Ginny, the verbal genius, starts out with a crush on Hal (we can see why she might prefer a quiet boy), but then she takes a hostile turn that isn’t remotely explained. And Thompson, who has a winning presence, isn’t asked to show any anger — a glaring omission in a story of adolescent pain. Rocket Science is a movie that never quite spits out what it has to say.