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LIGHTNING BUG (2004) **1/2 DVD capsule by COOP

Posted on June 17th, 2008
Posted on June 17th, 2008

The creators of “Lightning Bug” seemed to have in mind a bittersweet, sentimental film designed to please the indie crowds at film festivals. They got the bitter part right.

The film centers around a sweet teenager named Green (Bret Harrison) who grows up in an Alabama trailer with this single mom and little brother. His not-too-bright mom (Ashley Laurence) marries a murdering jerk, Bone, played by the frighteningly intimidating Kevin Gage. Bone mercilessly beats and abuses them all but somehow always gets out of jail and reenters their lives. Green grows up with a love for monster movies and develops a talent as an amateur special effects makeup artist. He meets the town’s black sheep, Angevine Duvet (Lara Prepon) and they fall in love. Soon their relationship catches the ire of Angevine’s deeply religious mother who labels Green a devil worshipper due to his unusual hobby and rallies the town against his Halloween spook house project. Green must contend with these threats as he plans to escape to Hollywood to pursue his destiny.

While the film had fine performances from all involved, every situation and plot turn in the story was way over the top. They made Bone, not only an abusive jerk, but also a multiple murderer. Angevine’s mother is so crazy, she carries around a pillow with a face drawn on it and calls it her husband, yet people listen to her and go along with her insane crusade. Green is such the stereotypical good-kid-next-door, his character seems way out of place in such a mean-spirited, nightmare world (which is part of the theme but it didn’t strike me as genuine). He’s nearly the only likeable character in the film and that’s why I found it so frustrating to watch.

The film didn’t know if it wanted to be a coming-of-age story or thriller and the tone suffered due to the confusion. It almost seemed like it could have been an autobiographical story of how a famous filmmaker grew up and succeeded despite all obstacles. However, the thriller twist thrown-in at the end seemed so far off the mark that it killed my autobiography theory, and nearly killed the movie entirely. The script could’ve used a few more rewrites to eliminate the thriller element and tone down the overdone melodrama parts to generate a real winner. If it weren’t for the excellent performances and the compelling character of Green, this film would have been a turkey. File this one under: “Missed opportunity.” If you’d rather see an excellent, sweet-natured, coming-of-age indie film, check out “Dreamland” starring Agnes Bruckner and Justin Long. It has the same themes as “Lightning Bug” but done right.

The trailer baffles the tone of “Lightning Bug” even further and I believe it misrepresents the film as a flat-out thriller. Another example of poor film marketing. I found the anti-southern blurb to be especially offensive. See it below…

Now compare it with the trailer for the similar, yet superior film “Dreamland” (2006) ****1/2

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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


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Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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