October Sky

Director:Joe Johnston
Writer:Lewis Colick
Universal Pictures; 100 minutes; PG
Cast:Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern

In an era of money-grubbing multinational corporations, irradiated milk, and tech-gnostic portents of unstoppable millennial doom, it's refreshing to see a movie about the good guy winning through clean, hard work and the kind of nose-to-the-grindstone backwoods determination that places men on the moon. Thus, October Sky.

Sweet and predictable, it's based on the true life story of NASA engineer Homer Hickman (Jake Gyllenhaal). Teenage Hickman banded together a bunch of boys from his blue-collar West Virginian mining town to win the National Science Fair with their rocket entry. His father's a practical miner who frowns upon his son's ambitions, and this conflict forms the dramatic backbone of this feel-good flick. Heavyhanded symbolism-mine shaft vs. open sky-drives the point home to everyone who isn't a rocket scientist. Laura Dern puts in a good performance as the science teacher encouraging her small town students to aim high.