My wife picked this little gem up at the movie store (so, it didn’t really come from Netflix). She said it looked very “Napoleon Dynamite-ish”. Well, in a very dark comedy sort of way. It’s way more like “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s got the dysfunctional family, the outcast kid, the psycho big brother, and supremely, wickedly funny dark comedy.
It’s the story of Hal Hefner, a kid who fits in nowhere–at home, at school, anywhere. His father walks out on his mom, who then falls in love with his best friend’s dad–an Asian-American judge (who provides some of the greatest comedy in the movie with his laughing at everything). Hal also has a huge stuttering problem… and is recruited by the school’s top debater to join the debate team (that’s just funny, I don’t care who you are… a stuttering kid on the debate team). The entire movie is about Hal’s efforts to “find his voice” in the world, and his realization that life shouldn’t be “rocket science”, although he discovers that it really is.
The thing that sparks Hal’s quest is his infatuation with Ginny, the debate star who recruited him. To her, life is about competition and winning. She uses Hal to destroy the school’s debate team… she transfers to another school, leaving the team in shambles (the team finds out on the way to the year’s first debate… and they take the short bus. Hilarious!). He has fallen in lust with her (he successfully made out with her in the janitor’s closet that he routinely hangs out in to get away from all the stress of school), and is totally rejected by her. He sets out on a quest for revenge–he recruits the school’s legendary debator who dropped out of school after blowing the state competition the year before. They form and unlikely pair, entering the state competition as a home school team… and are quickly disqualified (but only after Hal gets about two minutes into his opening argument–he found his voice by singing the argument). The movie ends with Hal telling his dad (who moved out the year before) that life shouldn’t be so tough.
Combine that with a great cameo by Jonah Hill (a fixture in Judd Apatow-produced films like Superbad, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall–his line about joining the philosophy club is hilarious, but only if you dig philosophy: “We read everything, but no Hegel.”) and a soundtrack by the Violent Femmes, and you’ve got a great little funny film.
If you dig independent films and dark comedy, this is one to check out.
Rocket Science in rated R for language and sexual content (thankfully, there’s no nudity).