One of the most treasured gifts movies can deliver is the ability to warm the heart. By heartwarming I don’t mean wanky and manipulative. I mean an honest lump-in-the-throat; the heartstrings being tugged is for real. Tears are falling of their own volition rather than being jerked. October Sky is just that kind of moviewatching experience.
In the Fifties, Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is destined to work like his father and his father’s father in the coalmines of Coalwood. But when the Russkies launch Sputnik, Homer’s whole outlook changes. He and his buddies Quentin (Chris Owen), Roy Lee (William Lee Scott), and Odell (Chad Lindberg) are inspired to take up rocketeering. Through a series of mostly failed experiments, Homer begins to get the hang of it.
Unfortunately, his dad, John Hickam (Chris Cooper), thinks his pipedreams are a waste of time and energy. The only person who appreciates the efforts of the boys is high school teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) who convinces them to enter the National Science Fair to contend for college scholarships.
Relative newcomers Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott and Chad Lindberg play off each other well, their characters have the kind of camaraderie only high school buds possess. The underrated Chris Cooper delivers the goods yet again as Homer’s naysaying father and Laura Dern is once again outstanding.