Judge Michael Nazarewycz tries not to stand under a tree...ever.
A personal raincloud can be deadly.
Anyone who has found success in Hollywood surely knows that no matter how long it took them to earn it, they can lose it in a blink. So it's never a surprise when a hot commodity tries to stay hot (or slow the cool-down) with an indie pet project. Riding the success of his Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Kurt Hummel on TV's Glee, Chris Colfer tries to show the world he's more than just a one-hit songbird.
Facts of the Case
Carson Phillips is a small town high schooler with big time dreams. Ever the outcast, Carson plans to use his writing skills as a ticket into Northwestern University. His endgame: becoming editor for The New Yorker. But high school is not easy, nor is his life at home, struggling to manage relationships with his drug-addicted mother (Allison Janney, The West Wing), absentee father (Dermot Mulroney, The Rambler), and Alzheimer's-riddled grandmother (Poly Bergen, The Winds of War). When the path to college is impeded by an insufficient extracurricular resume, Carson launches a school-based literary magazine and turns to blackmail to get the popular kids to contribute.
As freshman screenwriting efforts go, Chris Colfer shows a lot of promise. He also shows why he's a freshman.
Considering Actor Colfer has cashed a lot of checks playing a high school student, it's interesting he exposes his greatest script weakness in his lead's high school existence. A key point of Struck By Lightning is for the viewer to sympathize with Carson and his plight as the perennial outcast struggling for success while meeting roadblocks of ambivalence. Unfortunately, Carson is such an intellectual snob and so condescending to others, you tend not to care about his plight. I won't say he had his outcast status coming, but it's hard to find sympathy for him when it arrives.
Screenwriter Colfer makes two assumptions…
First, audiences will make the leap that a student who is president of the Writer's Club and editor of the school newspaper will automatically be viewed as Most Likely To Be Ostracized. While the percentages might side with said assumption, he still has the responsibility of showing something that supports WHY the character is an outcast.
Second, because Actor Colfer plays an outcast teen on a TV show, surely he must play an outcast teen here. While I took that very leap as a fan of Glee, it's not a leap he can assume audiences will make.
Don't get me wrong, Colfer shows great promise as a writer, as evidenced by his effective character development. Of course, you need skillful actors to play those characters. While Dermot Mulroney and Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) do well as Carson's disconnected dad and his pregnant fiancee, there are two other actors who leave the rest of the cast fighting to be remembered…
Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) plays Malerie, Carson's only friend and a girl who videotapes pretty much every waking minute of her life. Unlike the self-deprecating and smart-mouthed "Rebel Wilson Character" permeating all of her recent film choices, Wilson here plays the part conservatively and is genuinely charming. You couldn't hang an entire film on this character, Struck By Lightning wouldn't be the same without her.
Better than Wilson is Allison Janney as Carson's complex mother, Sheryl. On the surface, she has substance abuse problems (alcohol and pills), but those issues are fueled by the torch she still carries for Carson's father. This manifests itself as some harsh displaced aggression directed towards Carson. She also has significant abandonment issues, but to go into detail here would spoil things. With Colfer's words in Janney's hands, the troubled (and sometimes troubling) character is quite sympathetic, and a breathtaking scene near the film's conclusion will leave you speechless.
You never expect to be Struck by Lightning, but when you are, it's not always a bad thing. Okay, it's usually a bad thing, but not this time.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high def widescreen, the transfer is crisp and clear, as is the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. However, since the film is story-driven, there's nothing dazzling that occurs which would call for impressive A/V bells and whistles.
The bonus features are disappointing. An interview with director Brian Dannelly (Saved!) and Colfer is shallow, as is the "Story Behind the Scene" featurette that examines that breathtaking scene I mentioned. Both run about two minutes each. Meanwhile, the Blooper Reel is 17 minutes (!) of gaffes and failed attempts at improv. Deleted scenes and alternate endings aren't bad, proving the right choices were made in the film's final cut.
Struck by Lightning is nowhere near a Glee spinoff, and I look forward to what Screenwriter Colfer has in store next. Unless you are a Blu-ray purest, the standard def DVD is perfectly suitable. If you have teens or tweens in the house, invest in the purchase, not the rental. It has that kind of rewatch potential for younger viewers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
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