One of the more annoying memes in American culture is the idea of math and science being a Kabbalistic mystery, with derivatives and integrals shibboleths to an arcane cult -- an idea that last year's Pi literalized. October Sky is a refreshing antidote to this deification of mathematics by giving us the tale of Homer Hickham, a West Virginia coal miner's son who became a rocket scientist despite not being the metaphorical rocket scientist.
There's no question that October Sky is a somewhat corny feel-good film, but Sky doesn't go for the big emotional catharsis tearjerker moments until near the end. Until then, it's an extremely solid coming-of-age tale with fine performances from Jake Glythenthaal as Homer and Chris Cooper as his gruff mine-foreman father. The film has a wonderful sense of time and place as we watch Homer and his buds' initially unsuccessful attempts at model rocketry (which, when you think about it, makes a great metaphor for male adolescence). The film only starts to stumble when it starts yanking at the heartstrings as the film approaches its climax and some of the plot developments begin to stretch credibility.