STRUCK BY LIGHTNING – SLIFF Review
High school is a tough place. We all know that. Its a struggle to survive at a time when hormones rule and pressure builds from every angle. Parents, teachers, friends, where to go to college, whether to even go to college? For Carson Phillips, everything is boiling to a point and all he wants is one simple thing… to get into his dream college.
Chris Colfer (GLEE) not only stars as the sharp-tongued Carson Phillips, he wrote this darkly comical satire on the high school experience. Directed by Brian Dannelly, the film is a good fit for someone whose resume includes TV shows like WEEDS, PUSHING DAISIES and THE UNITES STATES OF TARA. STRUCK BY LIGHTNING begins with the death of Carson Phillips. I know, its a risky way to start a film. After all, it goes to reason that Carson never makes it to college, but that’s not really what its all about, as we come to learn while Carson’s recently departed spirit narrates the film in retrospect.
Carson is the editor of his school’s newspaper. This would be a commendable accomplishment, except that he attends a small, rural country school, where everyone assumes they are destined to be stuck in the dreadful town of Clover for the remainder of their days and therefor aspire to do next to nothing with their lives. That is, all but one… Carson Phillips. Smarter than the average Clover resident — by his own measure — Carson dreams of becoming an accomplished journalist. The problem is, no one at his school cares.
Rebel Wilson (BRIDEMAIDS) plays Malerie, an odd character and Carson’s only friend. Allyson Janney plays Carson’s alcoholic mother, devastated when Carson’s father Neil (Dermot Mulroney) leaves them, she takes it out on Carson, day after day. Things for Carson are looking grim, until he comes up with not just a plan to get into his dream college, but a master plan for forcing the student body to contribute by way of blackmailing them with their dirty little secrets in exchange for their help.
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING features all the high school stereotypes, dialed up to be especially unlikeable. For that matter, even Carson is difficult to like, with his smart mouth and arrogant attitude, but we root for him as the lesser of all evils. Clover is not a town most people will find inviting, but it lends to an idea that small town teenagers often struggle with what to do with their lives and how to achieve such goals. On the other hand, Carson ultimately learns a valuable lesson about life, albeit a short one in his case.
Like so many high school comedies today, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING does fall into the same general melting pot of modern teen-life stories. This is no DONNIE DARKO, but the film does still have a personality of its own buried just beneath the many cliches. The supporting cast offers an added touch of talent, including Christina Hendricks as Carson’s dad’s new fiance, Sarah Hyland as Claire, the stuck-up lead cheerleader who “probably sh*ts cupcakes,” Ashley Rickards as Vicki, the apathetic Goth girl, Angela Kinsey as the absent-minded blond bimbo school counselor, and Brad William Henke as the jaded high school principal with anger management issues.
Overall, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING is an exaggerated and humorous take on a certain set of truths about high school. Chris Colfer interjects a dialogue clearly inspired by his experience with GLEE, but fails to deliver anything refreshingly original. Instead of a film that could grow into a cult classic of the genre, the film settles for being an entertaining movie worth seeing with a bucket of popcorn in one arm and a lovely companion in the other. The film is not likely to stick with you for long, but you certainly will have a good time and plenty of laughs.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING screens during the 21st Annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival on Tuesday, November 13th, 7:30pm at the Tivoli Theatre.
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