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STRUCK BY LIGHTNING review

Posted on December 27th, 2012
Posted on December 27th, 2012

by Coop Cooper

Smart coming-of-age films are few and far between. When they aren’t right out inane, the good ones range from light and silly to pitch dark. Chris Colfer, the very young star/writer of “Struck by Lightning,” has deftly avoided these clichés to deliver an inspiring and very funny coming-of-age flick.

Chris Colfer (award-winning actor on the hit TV show “Glee”) stars as Carson Phillips, an outspoken overachiever who exasperates his classmates and the adults around him by challenging their apathy toward the injustices and mediocrity they choose to ignore on a daily basis. His basket case mom (Allison Janney) drinks and medicates herself into a stupor while mourning her dead relationship with Carson’s deadbeat dad (Dermot Mulroney) who has not told his pregnant fiance (Christina Hendricks) about the family he abandoned. Aided by his odd, video camera-obsessed friend, Malerie (Rebel Wilson), Carson blackmails his most adversarial classmates into writing for his startup literary magazine which he hopes will clench his chances for acceptance into Northwestern University. As his plan comes together, Carson weighs the costs of hurting others – despite all the pain they have put him through – against his own ambitions.

Golden Globe-winning Colfer has accomplished a lot in his 22 years but this film confirms he is destined for greatness. The wit of his writing (this film was adapted from his book of the same name) and the preciseness of his comedic delivery on camera puts him in the big leagues. The kid is a powerhouse of talent and I can’t say much more than ‘brace yourself’ because his name will only get bigger as he continues to act and write his own material. Broadway, stand-up comedy, TV… Colfer could probably do them all but I hope he sticks with film because I’d like to continue seeing him in it.

Allison Janney performs spectacularly as usual and the recognizable supporting cast gives the production the classiness of a big Hollywood release. I was particularly impressed with Rebel Wilson whom I have not appreciated in a comedy until now. Her quirky performance as an awkward teen endeared me to her more than her raunchy, outrageous performances (like in “Bachelorette”). She has more potential and range than I expected,

Although this is director Brian Dannelly’s second feature film, he is two-for-two in my book. His first comedy “Saved!” (2004) about misfit teens enduring difficulties at a strict religious school, became a cult hit. “Struck by Lightning” hits the same tonal notes and similar social issues of ostracized outcasts fighting back against a system that devalues them. He takes controversial issues/situations and presents a counter-perspective in a humorous way without judging the other perspective too harshly. Even the great John Hughes’ teen comedies would occasionally rub me the wrong way, but Dannelly’s style doesn’t and I’m hoping to see him rack up some more screen credits soon.

This story reminds us of how big an impact we can make on others, even in a short amount of time. As long as that impact is positive, we have succeeded as human beings. I only wish the film had taken more time to tie up some of the loose ends and subplots more tightly. We don’t see Carson’s mom go through a complete story arc, nor do we get a satisfying sense that his dad learned anything from the consequences of his lack of empathy. I also wanted to see a nice resolution for Malerie since she contributed and endured so much during the course of the plot. Regardless, I get the message of the film loud and clear and feel that it has many positive things to say in addition to its clever and hilarious dialogue. I wasn’t entirely expecting its bittersweet ending, but I am glad it went for the emotional punch rather than the light cop out of so many teen-themed films.

I predict this will become a sleeper hit and not only with fans of “Glee” (of which I’ve never seen a full episode). There is no singing or dancing here. Comedy, drama, fine writing and terrific performances… “Struck by Lightning” is highly recommended.

Struck by Lightning” is now available for rent on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu, Pay-Per-View and will soon hit theaters in a limited run on January 11. It will also have a one night only preview run in select theaters on January 6 followed by a live satellite Q&A with Chris Colfer himself. This is an interesting way to distribute a movie and I predict we will see more quality independent films taking this route in the next couple of years.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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