After his festival-friendly documentary Spellbound hit the scene at several locations (including Toronto, South By Southwest and Tribeca), filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz found himself an overnight sensation, so he did what any suddenly successful filmmaker would do: He tried something a little different ... but not too different, and the result is Rocket Science, a festival-friendly comedy/drama very much in the vein of Thumbsucker, Art School Confidential and Napoleon Dynamite. Tailor-made to appeal to the kinds of audiences who regularly show up at the Sundance Film Festival, Rocket Science is certainly well-made and heartfelt enough to earn some praise -- but it's also more than a little familiar, and (despite several excellent performances) it's not all that consistently funny a piece. Quirky, colorful and filled with typically oddball characters, sure, but not all that funny.
Young Canadian actor Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a New Jersey high school nobody who has two bickering parents, one amazingly obnoxious older brother and a speech impediment that would give Porky Pig a run for his money. When his school's debating hero (Nicholas D'Agosto) has a mild breakdown and hits the road, the astoundingly ambitious (and rather adorable) Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick) enlists Reece, serious stutter and all, to join her debating activities. But poor Hal has a whole lot more to worry about than schoolboy crushes, public speaking and a nasty stuttering problem: His parents are splitting up, his brother is a klepto, his school advisor is a clueless chap and his self-confidence is at an all-time low -- even for a 15-year-old.