Thursday, August 5, 1999

Movie Review: October Sky

So I recently got a DVD player, and I have to say that it makes a huge difference - even on my 19" TV - when I hook it up to my stereo. The picture and sound quality are phenomenal. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

Anyway, I rented the DVD version of October Sky with high hopes, having read the book during my vacation in May. Homer Hickam's book, a nostalgic autobiographical story that is more coming-of-age than rocket-building, is excellent, and made me regret not catching this in the theater.

Despite some changes, the movie does not disappoint. In fact, it enhances and builds upon the key theme in the book, Homer's squaring-off with his father in regards to his future, and his desperate need to win the old man's approval.

Following the Russian's successful launch of Sputnik, teenager Homer Hickam decides that he wants to build rockets. So he and his friends do just that, starting off badly and then slowly excelling in what they do. Homer dreams of one day working for the famous rocket-building scientist, Dr. Werner von Braun, which is at direct odds with his father's expectations that Homer follow in his footsteps to work in the coal mines. Needless to say, father-son disputes ensue.

Anyway, I dug it. The film's production design, direction and photography capture the nostalgic feel of the book, and the actors all do a superb job, especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Cooper, as Homer and his father, respectively. Lewis Colick's screenplay takes the best of the book and hones it down into a great, two-hour story.

My one major problem with the film versus the book: the name change of the father from Homer, Sr., to "John." It suggests that the audience is stupid and can't follow a story with two characters named Homer, and, worse, de-emphasizes the sharp similarities between the father and the son, despite their being opposed to one another. Oh well. It's still a very good movie.



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