October Sky

on February 19, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
   Not all Americans were wrapped up in the Cold War in the late 1950s. In some corners of the country, the Soviet Union's launch of the satellite Sputnik meant virtually nothing. Homer Hickam Jr. lived in just such a place, but Sputnik meant everything to him. "October Sky" is the true story of this West Virginia teen who beat all the odds, avoiding his dad's harsh life in the coal mine--not by playing football, but by winning a national science fair.
   Played with aching innocence by Jake Gyllenhaal ("Homegrown"), Homer challenges everything he's been taught to fulfill his dream of building a rocket--starting with something as simple as sitting down with the class nerd in the school cafeteria. Ultimately, he finds himself standing up to his dad, who insists Homer was born to work in the mine. Portrayed to painful perfection by Chris Cooper ("Lone Star"), Homer's father feels pressure from both the coal company and the union to keep the local mine--and lifeline of the community--productive. It's when Homer and his dad can finally come to understand each other that Homer really becomes a success.
   Told with a gentle humor (such as the montage of Homer's failed rocket attempts--one after another after another) and set to a rockin' '50s soundtrack, "October Sky" is a sweet yet sincere coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, communities pulling together and, above all, heroes. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott and Chad Lindberg. Directed by Joe Johnston. Written by Lewis Colick. Produced by Charles Gordon and Larry Franco. A Universal release. Drama. Rated PG for language, brief teen sensuality and alcohol use, and for some thematic elements. Running time: 105 min
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