Screenwriters, who are after all adults and professional wordsmiths, are either unable or disinclined to avoid idealizing childhood by writing juvenile characters funnier, smarter, and more articulate — more adult — than kids could ever be, except in the rosiest memories of their eventual selves. Now comes Rocket Science, a revel in high school precociousness that’s actually about articulacy: stammering wallflower Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson, credibly, which is to say squirmingly, awkward) joins the debate squad out of thrall to Tracyflickian team captain Ginny Reyerson (Anna Kendrick), and angstily keeps pace with her class-conscious one-liners and crossfire-paced prep for that year’s resolution. (It concerns abstinence education, a perfect subject for a pale underclassman lusting after his college-bound mentor.)
The suburban New Jersey milieu is sprawled with enough ‘luded guidance counselors, compulsive tooth-brushing klepto sweathog older brothers, sexually misinformed 12-year-olds and effeminate Korean-Americans to suggest that writer-director Jeffrey Blitz may have spent too much time reading fawning audience feedback cards for his previous film, the spelling bee doc/Ritalin cocktail Spellbound — but this Amerindie’s excesses of quirk seem hormonal rather than Sundance Lab-engineered. How else to explain the sight of a kid leafing through his parents’ Kama Sutra while, downstairs, mom and dad play Violent Femmes songs on cello and piano?