October Sky (1999)

This utterly delightful against-all-odds drama is based on the true 
story of Homer Hickam, a NASA engineer who escaped the gravitation-
al pull of a dying West VA mining town after deciding as a teen to 
"build a rocket."  And he and his far-from-learned friends (plus 
the school brainiac) did just that, despite opposition from his fa-
ther, the principal, the local law, etc.  Hour one is a pure joy, 
even if the mining scenes are so charcoal-bleak that they literally 
make your chest hurt.  A sequence showing the boys raising cash by 
collecting scrap iron is memorable, as is a hilarious rocket-test 
montage set to Fats Domino's "Ain't it a Shame."  Hour two is con-
siderably more problematic.  By turns, the narrative is sluggish, 
over-plotted (even if it *is* true), and finally wraps all dripped 
in schmaltz.  But, by golly it works and works wonders.  (A coda 
featuring footage of the real characters is the cincher.)  In fact, 
the film has such a generous and honest heart that I was practical-
ly startled.  What's gonna happen if Hollywood starts making *hap-
py* films again?  With Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Owen, William Lee 
Scott, Chad Lindberg, a tough Chris Cooper as the disinterested dad 
and Laura Dern, all blonde and beaming as the schoolteacher who 
inspires it all.  Joe Johnston (THE ROCKETEER, JUMANJI) directs.  
(Rated "PG"/~110 min.)

Grade: B
Copyright 1999 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros                      

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros