Thursday, December 18, 2008
A Frank Review of "Rocket Science" (2007)
The Short Version? Teenaged Porky Pig picked for debate team.
What Is It? Indie Comedy.
Who's In It? Nobody.
Should I See It? No.
Speaking as someone who saw Back To School, three Porky's, and too many films from the Patrick Dempsey and/or Christian Slater oeuvre in theatrical release, far be it for me to question the lousy taste of teenagers at cineplexes. Teen movies have been awful since at least the days of Frankie and Annette, which proves they're meant to be cheap and easy, like your date, and anyway, you aren't old enough to know better. No, what I don't get is at what point the quirky teen indie flick developed a formula and bankable audience? Napoleon Dynamite? Rushmore? Revenge of the Nerds? Brewster McCloud? Because I swear, I've seen this exact movie before. Maybe it was called Thumbsucker, or maybe Chumscrubber, or even something that doesn't end in "er" about an awkward male outcast placed in unusual circumstances to elicit knowing, pained amusement in the audience? Isn't this all a bit too specific a personality type for demographically targeted dollar grabs, because surely something so rote couldn't possibly have been intended as art?
Nicholas D'Agosto plays the nerd, whose st-- whose st--... He has a st-- you see, this speech imped-- a-- he can't... Yeah, that doesn't get old, does it? A mystical transference is hinted at that could allow his character to become a championship speaker, Anna Kendrick plays the love interest who anoints him as such, and hijinks ensue. I swear, I saw this film weeks ago, intended to at least get a review out of it, then promptly forgot it existed. When it isn't trying for that smug, self-aware indie vibe, it's borrowing from the John Hughes' toy box. Many of the best moments involve Long Duk Dong, here split into a father-son combo, so we can all laugh at the "skewering" of Asians stereotypes. Or not. Yeah, not.
The movie's one great accomplishment is that it unfailing flouts normal expectations of the story. I will give it that. It's generic and obvious, right up until it isn't, repeatedly. It's a good way to alienate any viewers who might take this as just another teen comedy, but the set-up comprises the entire picture, so that the joke seems like one of those rambling monstrosities that has lost all momentum before the punchline.
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