Rocket Science

2007

Five years after his hit spellling-bee documentary Spellbound (2002), Jeffrey Blitz returns with a high school comedy that builds on that film's winning combination of academic stress and offbeat individuals. A put-upon student with a stuttering problem (Reece Thompson) is dragooned by a ferociously competitive schoolmate (Anna Kendrick) to be her partner on the debate squad, and their assigned topic -- teaching abstinence in public schools -- proves ironic given his deep need to get his hands on her. The hero's sexual feelings are complicated by his situation at home: his dad has recently moved out and been replaced by his mother's obnoxious new lover (Steve Park) and his teenage son. Quietly written and convincingly played, this coming-of-age story mines its rueful laughs from a thick vein of performance anxiety, in both senses of the term. 98 min.

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