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Movie Review

October Sky

Rated “PG” for language, brief teen sensuality and alcohol use, and for some thematic elements

Reviewed by: Peter Wright
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
108 min.
Year of Release:
1999
PG

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott / Director: Joe Johnston

Occasionally, a movie comes along that blows me away. Whether it’s the story, the acting, or the scenery, I can’t get over how good the movie is or how good I feel when leaving the theater. That’s how I felt when I saw “October Sky”.

“October Sky”, released by Universal Pictures, is the true story that focuses on the lives of four young men seeking a way out of smalltown USA and the lives they are destined to lead if they do nothing to change it. Seventeen-year-old Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) watches the Soviet satellite Sputnik fly over his hometown and becomes fascinated with rockets. Aided by his two friends and the school “nerd”, Homer begins experimenting with rockets with the idea of entering into the national science fair after his teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) informs them that the winners might have a chance of college scholarships. With college scholarships, they would have in their grasp the opportunity to leave their small coal-mining town.

The more excited Homer gets about their rockets, the less support he seems to get from his father. Homer isn’t a football jock like his brother Jim, and, according to his father, is destined to live the life his father lives: staying in their small town working at the coal mine. But Homer knows that coal mining isn’t his life and sets out, determined to prove that he and his friends can win that science fair. Standing behind him is Miss Riley, who sees the potential in the Rocket Boys and knows that they have what it takes to make their dreams come true.

An interesting thing to look for from a Christian perspective is the scene at the Hickam dinner table. As the scene begins, Homer’s father is finishing grace.

There are, unfortunately, some elements of profanity throughout the film, including some instances of the Lord’s name in vain. There is one scene where Homer sits with a girl in a parked car. Both appear nervous and it is hinted that something might happen, but fortunately they are interupted before anything happens.

The boys “play with matches” quite a bit in the film and you see a lot of exploding rockets. Concerned parents might want to warn their children “not to do that at home.” There are a couple of scenes that involve accidents in the mine and might be visually upsetting to young children. There is also a scene in which one of Homer’s friends is beaten by his stepfather. Homer’s father steps in and threatens the man. Also, Homer and his friends resort to stealing in order to fund their hobby and there is one short scene in which Homer and his friends appear drunk while stealing a bottle of alcohol.

The only really objectionable theme that runs throughout much of the movie is Homer’s struggle with his father. Parents might feel that Homer is too rebellious and blatantly disobeys his father. It may seem that their struggle is obviously skewed in Homer’s favor: Homer is right and Dad is wrong. I don’t, however, think this was the writer’s intention. Homer’s father obviously wants what is best for his son. It is through this struggle that a lot of the growth is shown between both Homer and his father throughout the movie.

“October Sky” looks like it might be one of those quiet movies that comes in but never really makes it big, but I hope that I am wrong. As I mentioned earlier, I had a really good feeling coming out of this movie and I don’t think I was the only one: a number of people clapped as the credits began to role which I don’t encounter often at movies. I hope “October Sky” does well because it will encourage Hollywood to make more movies like it.

Viewer Comments
I felt this was a wonderful movie… but was shocked with the amount of profanity! I almost turned off the movie when there were 3 bad words in the first 3 minutes of the movie. I felt (as always) this movie could have been just as good with the profanity left out. I think this movie rated PG should be rated PG-13, as many parents of very young children think that a PG movie is fine for all ages. I felt bad showing this movie to my teenagers and would recommend it for adults… as a christian parent.
—Kim Baer
This is one of the ten best movies I have ever seen. It was glorious—inspiring, uplifting, and exhilarating. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to the theater to see it again the next day! I disagree with previous comments suggesting that Homer was disrespectful or disobedient. If you think Homer was disrespectful, you’ve never had teenagers! Homer obeyed his father to the letter, but he found a way to be obedient and yet still continue his project. All in all, the positive aspects of this film far outweighed the occasional use of bad language. I would have given it 5 stars.
—Cheryl Sneeringer, age 54
As a Christian educator in a middle-high school, I found this movie to be one of the few I could recommend to my students. The film deals with hard work, support, a young man’s struggle to leave behind one way of life for one that he feelds will be better. The father and son struggle is very honest and shows that striving towards a new avenue does not mean we have fogotten those we must leave. The family’s relationship seemed completely real to me and I sympathized with the father and his son. Unfortunately, I had to travel forty minutes to see this film as it was not considered commercial enough for my local theaters. If you teach—YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE! If you have ever dreamed of building something—you MUST SEE THIS MOVIE! EVEN MY HUSBAND LOVED IT!
—Sharon Hamilton, age 30
“October Sky” was a wonderful movie for any gender. But, not for any age. I was disapointed by the language in the movie. In my opinion, the movie should have been rated PG-13 because of the violence (the abusive Dad), and language.
—Courtney, age 15
“I have a Dream,” exclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream!” exclaims October Sky. Love is not offended and neither should we be as mild profanity is used thru out this inspiring movie. It didn’t surprise me when I found out the same producer was at the helm of Fields of Dreams as October Sky, because that was the last movie that produced tears in me as I watched. This movie inspired me to dream of the purpose of why I was created and it will do the same for you. A nine on a ten scale.
—Rev. Anthony Gullo, age 35
I went to go see, “October Sky” for my friend’s birthday party. It was a very touching, great, and sad movie. Yes, there was some swear words, but PG movies are like that. What I got uneasy of when they said some swearwords is, Elissa, the birthday girl, her little sister was there, and she is only 7. After the movie, my friends and I decided that it should have been PG-13. My friend counted 20 swear words. I don’t keep track of bad words, I block them out. Other than that I loved the part where Homer’s teacher said, “Lets just say I believe in the unlucky ones.”… Elissa’s mom cried [during the movie]… I just want to say it was a very good movie!
—Kacie, age 11
OCTOBER SKY is inspiring. It’s a must see for its pure good intentions.
—Mang Yang, age 27
A wonderful movie. The reconciliation of father and son touched me in the same way that Field of Dreams did. Yes, there is a smattering of profanity, but unlike many movies where swearing is gratuitous, here it seems less disturbing since it is coming from the mouths of hard West Virginia coalminers. I was very impressed with the authenticity of the movie, the way it captured the times and local environment.
—Ron Reames, age 52
…I did not even notice the profanity in this movie… The universal themes of Family and Community is evident in this movie…
—Ike, age 26
I agree with the reviewer. It was the best movie at a theater I have seen in a long time. There was strong language for a PG rating, but it didn’t seem gratuitous or “cool”. I highly recommend this film for teens and adults. It was powerful. My husband is usually not very impressed by movies, but he was so moved by this one that we drove to the bookstore and got the book, THE ROCKETBOYS, by Homer Hickam, before wewent home!
—Cindy Shelton, age 41
GO SEE THIS MOVIE! I can’t remember the last time we saw whole families at the theater together and I was GLAD parents were taking their children to see something they could all enjoy and understand. Homer’s story is an inpiring one and was a treat to watch.
—S. McCabe, age 34
Wonderful movie. Good focus on growing up and becoming your own person. My only objection was that I was surprised by the amount of profanity for a PG rating.
—Debbie, age 40
This movie is worthwhile for any teen or adult. I agree with the reviewer’s comments regarding the minor issues with the movie, which is why it is probably not appropriate for a child younger than 12-they may not understand the context of some scenes in the movie. The boys first experiment might be considered “playing with matches,” but as the movie progresses this is clearly not the case. A parent who lets a young child watch October Sky will probably have a lot of explaining to do. Regarding the conflict between Homer and his fahter, he does disagree with his father. However, I think that one of the points of the movie and something each Christian parent should understand is that each child has a unique calling on his life. We also understand that calling is from the Lord, and it is not the job of the parent to unilaterally make major decisions for his child like what profession he takes or who he marries. Mr. Hickam is trying to force his son into his shoes. I think Homer does a good job of explaining to his father that he is not rebelling against authority, but trying to begin to live his own life. The fact that Homer really respects his father is confirmed in the film’s closing scene. October Sky positively displays the values of vision, character, sacrifice, endurance, and community. This is a great film, but it is not a children’s film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
—Jon DeMersseman, age 30