Would I have liked this movie as much if I wasn’t a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal? Probably not, so take that into consideration when reading my praise of the film. It’s pretty generic inspirational family film about the trials of living in a mining community and wanting something better, but if you go into it expecting that, then you’ll pretty happy with the experience.
In Coalwood, West Virginia Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is enthralled by the launch of Sputnik and is inspired to launch his own amateur rocket as well. With the help of his teacher, Miss Riley (Laura Dern), his friends, and the whole town really, he manages to enter the national science fair in an effort to win a scholarship and escape a future working in the coal mines. Though he has the encouragement of the whole town, he doesn’t have the approval of his father (Chris Cooper), and they argue over his future until Homer can prove that his interest in science is profitable.
The film is pretty straightforward; it might go back and forth over Homer’s future a couple too many times (will he enter the science fair vs will he work in the mines forever), but overall it just presents the story. There are a lot of cute moments in the film and moments of understanding between character where the inspirational music swells like it does in countless films. All I can really say is this is not an incredibly unique or innovative film, but it works on a purely entertaining level. It would work a bit better if it was shortened. At 1 hour 48 minutes it’s not long by any means, but the conflict goes back and forth a few too many times like I said; it’s easily understood way before the movie is over.
One of the best things about the movie definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but I especially liked its connection to the historical time period. One of my favorite movies is The Right Stuff; the Cold War space race is fascinating to me. It was cool to see a bunch of kids get so worked up about it. I got a nostalgic kick out of seeing all their failed rocket launches, even if that nostalgia was based on other films and not my actual experience (seeing as I wasn’t alive yet). The space nerd in me really appreciated this movie.
October Sky was a fun time, if not necessarily for the film making, which was pretty standard. It was still a pretty adorably inspirational movie. Is it a tad corny? Yes, but entertainingly so. I wish I could say more about this movie, but it basically just is your standard Hollywood fare. Which is fine of course, and an entertaining watch at least.
“Sure Dr. Von Braun is a great scientist, but he isn’t my hero.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars