We’re at the State Science Fair and the excitement starts to build again. Jake’s showing people his vast intelligence when it comes to rockets, though I doubt most of them have come to see his science when his eyes are so darn blue. He shows people the sexy nozzle Pilot Guy made for them. Man, he is going to win! After the fair, he goes wandering the streets, grinning because he’s never been anywhere as exciting. I know how he feels. When I went to Abergavenny the first time, I felt like all my dreams had come true at once. He decides to take in a movie – The Incredible Shrinking Man. It’s no Bubble Boy but it’ll fill up an evening. The couple in front of him in the queue are chatting about the science fair. Cos exciting conversation hasn’t been invented yet. The girl thinks the biosphere is going to win. I still can’t believe that guy with the robot dog didn’t get in. The girl’s friend is backing the rocket kid. Hang on, we know that rocket kid. That’s Jake! Jake grins. And so do we.
The next day, he goes to his stand and, shock, horror, someone’s pinched his nozzle. No that’s not a euphemism, someone’s actually run off with his project. He calls Row-Lee – the guy you’d call in a crisis – but Row-Lee says Pilot Guy can’t get to the workshop ’cos of the strike. Jake also says they took his picture of Jean-Claude Van Damme. You monsters! Pilot Guy comes to New Movie Mom and explains the predicament. She walks through the picket line to see NPC at his office. He’s basically too proud to do anything. Poor Jake, bet you’re wishing you were back with Dennis Quaid. He walked through the end of the world to give you a hand. New Movie Mom says he loves the mine more than his family and that the townsfolk have done more for Jake and his rockets than NPC has. She says if he doesn’t help Jake, she’ll leave him. Bloody hell, she really loves Jake. Or perhaps really hates NPC…She says she’ll live in a tree to get away from him, or alternatively to Myrtle Beach. I’d opt for the beach love. Instantly, the strike is over and it seems NPC did it. He calls Pilot Guy who quickly fashions a new nozzle. New Movie Mom calls Jake to tell him it’ll be on the bus in the morning and his father got it done. Jake is very pleased as he walks out into the night. And so are we. Cut to Jake giving his science fair talk with his new nozzle and his old blue eyes.
Now comes the exciting part, the prize giving at the end of the science fair. Everyone join hands like it’s a Coke advert. Some girl gets a medal and Jake politely claps. He watches her back to her seat. Oooh, look out Plainer Jane, you got competition. Now for First Prize. Jake has Dead Euro-Mining Guy’s token in his hand for luck. Cos it brought the Dead Guy loadsa luck. Everyone crosses their fingers and holds their breath. Holy shit Jake, he said your name! Well, not your name, but your characters name. Jake looks completely shocked as the guy reels off the names of the other Rocketeers, then his face splits into a big juicy grin. Everyone’s clapping, the world goes mad as he gets to his feet to receive his gold medal and have his photo taken like the red carpet star he is. People shake his hand and offer him scholarships, and riches, riches beyond his wildest dreams. Some German guy says well done. Someone else asks what the German guy said. Jake is suitably confused, until he is informed the German guy was none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme. All together now, Damme! Jake looks desperately around for his hero who is now lost in the crowds. It’s so tragic, like the time I had a chance to talk to Ross Townley on a night out, but by the time I had enough Dutch courage in me, he was gone. And I spent the rest of the night crying in the ladies room.
Cut to Jake returning home. Everyone’s there to meet him off the bus, going completely ape-shit. Pilot Guy, New Movie Mom, the Rocketeers. But not the one person he wanted to see, to finally get admiration and approval from. New Movie Mom says he’s not here - I already covered that love! She also says that Mrs Sam Neill’s taken a turn for the worst. He visits her in a hospital that looks more like a prison. She’s very impressed by his medal and the fact that all four of the Rocketeers have scholarships. I still maintain that Odell and Row-Lee have done little but turn up to deserve them. Well, Row-Lee did keep up moral with his car and his floppy haircut. But Odell, what did he do? Mrs Sam Neill says she’s going to show off to her new students about how she taught Homer Hickam. Wouldn’t Jake Gyllenhaal work better?
Jake gets New Movie Mom to drop him off at the mine to see NPC, who basically ignores him, even when Jake thanks him from the bottom of his little heart for sorting out the strike so he could get a new nozzle. He tells NPC they’re shooting off their last rocket at 5 o’clock. But Jake, Blue Peter’s on, you won’t get the crowd. NPC says he’s busy. As Jake walks off, NPC puts the boot in by saying “Hear you met your hero, and you didn’t even know it.” You know, would it be such a pity if there was another mining accident, even at this late stage of the film? Jake comes back and delivers the Oscar clip – he and NPC don’t see eye to eye on anything, but Jake wants to be somebody in this world, because they’re the same on the inside. Doctor Van Damme is a great scientist, but he’s not Jake’s hero. Give you three guesses who is Jake’s hero. That’s right. Music swells, not a dry seat in the house. NPC goes down the mine, watching Jake walk away, with something like pride in his eyes.
The last rocket is painted white with Miss Riley written on it. That’s nice. DA SHERMANATOR SETS DA FUSE while Jake fiddles with the detonator. The entire town has turned up, fresh from their trip to the bus station, except, of course that distant figure Jake so desperately wants to see. Jake gives the detonator to Row-Lee – bad mistake, like when they let the New Guy use the drill in The Day After Tomorrow – as he has to go and mingle with some girls. Susie Highschool skips over to say congratulations and starts to invite him out on a date but Jake only has eyes for that one girl in the crowd who has retrieved her sweater from Mrs Sam Neill. That’s right, Row-Lee. No, I mean Plainer Jane. That’s embarrassing Susie. She does in fact look burned and removes herself from the situation quick-sharp.
Jake, the hero of Coalwood, addresses his adoring fans. Someone tells him to get on with it. Keep your bloody knickers on, Jake’s waiting for that special someone to show up! Jake thanks the crowd for their help, even though the majority of them didn’t do anything, and tells the anecdote about blowing up his Mum’s fence. New Movie Mom makes a proud face at being in a soon-to-be-famous anecdote. He holds up his medal, saying “This is for Coalwood.” He dedicates the rocket launch to the people who supported them, to Dead Euro-Mining Guy, to Pilot Guy, to Mrs Sam Neill, to New Movie Mom and… Jake pauses, as if something has caught his eye in the distance. What could it be? Are the Russians attacking, right at the end of the film? HAVE DA SHERMANATOR’S ENEMIES TRAVELLED THROUGH TIME TO FIND HIM AND KICK HIS SHINY METAL BEEHIND? Or could it be…is it him…? “My Dad” says Jake as NPC pushes his way through the crowd to the front. We’ll ignore the pushing-in because it has made Jake, and the others at the JW Headquarters, so damn happy. New Movie Mom looks more surprised than anyone that NPC turned up and kisses him while everyone claps. I feel a song coming on…
Nope. Jake gives NPC the greatest honour a rocket geek can possess – the button to push on his last rocket. Awww. NPC looks shy but overwhelmed and Father and Son walk out to the rocket as the music builds – “It’s not time to make a change, just relax, take it slowly. You’re still young, that’s your fault, there’s so much you have to know” - and everyone finds their hankies. Row-Lee hands him the box and Jake starts the countdown from ten. Everyone joins in like it’s the finale of Annie. NPC still manages to look cranky as he pushes the button and Miss Riley rises into the air like Thunderbird 1. I spend some time rewinding and fast-forwarding this as a rocket going backwards is quite amusing. Anyway, NPC is finally, actually, impressed by what his son has achieved, shown through great acting of the open-mouthed variety. The camera pans over the awed faces of the Rocketeers as THE SHERMANATOR ANNOUNCES IT VILL GO FOR MILES. Let’s hope it doesn’t land in some flammable area and land you boys back in trouble. The crowd are suitably impressed but it doesn’t stop there. The guys at the grocery store stop to watch, the miners have a gander, and Mrs Sam Neill glimpses it from her sick bed.
NPC looks at Jake like he’s just seen him for the first time and is suitably bowled over. He raises his hand and for a second, I think he’s going to do like the Cheeky Girls and touch his bum. I’m about to scream something along the lines of “No-one’s allowed to touch him there except Plainer Jane and Heath” but he resists and his hand travels to the more natural Father and Son spot of the shoulder – “Find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry. Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy”. Jake looks at the hand, then at NPC and they smile at each other, then return their gaze to the rocket that is still soaring through the Coalwood sky. Cut to a Cape Canaveral rocket taking off in all its glory and crowds clapping that. Fade to black.
According to the round-up that always follows a ‘Based on a True Story’ movie, we learn several things. From actual footage of the real people involved, we learn that the characters were all portrayed by actors. The Rocketeers graduated from college. Well, if Britpop and I managed it, it can hardly be rocket science. See what I did there? Honestly, I amaze even myself at times. DA SHERMANATOR, VEN HE IS NOT BATTLING SEXY ROBOTS FROM DA FUTURE, IS A CHEMICAL ENGINEER. Roy-Lee (that makes more sense that Row-Lee) is an automobile dealer and retired banker. O’Dell (with an apostrophe) is a rancher and owns an insurance agency. New Movie Mom’s real name is missing from my crappy widescreen TV but she retired to Myrtle Beach after her husband (aka NPC) died of black lung disease in 1976. Miss Riley (aka Mrs Sam Neill) died at the age of 31. In 1965, the mine was closed, the town sold off. Homer Hickam (aka Jake) became a NASA engineer and trained astronauts for Shuttle missions. We then get actual footage of one of their rockets going off, and it really is amazing to see that a couple of high-school boys created something so amazing. The film is based on the book ‘Rocket Boys’ by Homer H. Hickam Jr. That’s a lot of H’s.
Final thanks go to Hair Stylist Susan Mills for maintaining Row-Lee’s excellent hair-style, the Swing Gang, who sound like they’d be the most fun on a night out and Tomkats catering – no wonder we never saw Baby Suri, Katie and Tom were off running their burger van. Thanks also go to Jake, of course, to Frank Schuler who played ‘Moonshiner’, to Shirley & Lee for Let the Good Times Roll, my favourite song in the movie next to We’re Soaring! Flying!, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad, Chattanooga…Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-choo?
This review is dedicated to my Dad who has a bad back and is walking like John Wayne but still refuses to see a professional.
That’s all for now folks. Please take all your belongings with you when you leave because I am skint and will swap them for penny chews.