Struck By Lightning

Directed by: Brian Dannelly

Starring: Chris Colfer, Rebel Wilson, Allison Janney, Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks, Sarah Hyland

Struck By Lightning boasts an impressive cast of television actors from shows like Modern Family, Weeds, Mad Men, Desperate Housewives and The Office.  Written by Glee’s Chris Colfer, the film is a high school comedy-drama that has a great deal of promise, but ultimately plays like a made for television movie.

Struck By Lightning tells the story of Carson Phillips (Colfer).  Carson lives in the small town of Clover.  In the opening scene of the film, Carson is struck by lightning and instantly killed.  Dead Carson then narrates his life story to explain how he ended up being struck down in his school parking lot. Carson grew up with his mother Cheryl (Allison Janney) and Neal (Dermot Mulroney).  Carson was a happy and highly intelligent child. He developed a sharp tongue and a jaded spirit, however, when his father Neal abruptly left him and his mother. His father’s abandonment and his mother’s subsequent slide into a heavily medicated depression changed Carson’s outlook on life. 

Carson’s ultimate dream is to escape from Clover, his family and his problems.  He applies to Northwestern University where he intends to study journalism.  However, he is not sure he has done enough to get into the school.  He has a 4.3 GPA and is editor of the school newspaper, but he needs more.  His guidance counselor recommends that he start a literary magazine which he could submit to Northwestern to demonstrate his ability to write and inspire others to contribute as well.  There’s just one catch—he is a social leper.  Aside from his friend Malerie (Rebel Wilson), Carson does not have any friends.  Everyone hates the school newspaper, him and everything it stands for: typical high school nonsense.

After school assembly plugs do not garner any submissions (beyond wads of feces), Carson and Malerie decide to blackmail their fellow students into participating in the literary magazine.  Somehow, they are able to get dirt on all of their classmates.  Some of the students are involved in secret same sex relationships, some are sleeping with faculty, some are sending explicit pictures online or involved in gothic sex.  To be quite frank, most of the “secrets” involve sex—it’s like a teenage Melrose Place.  Carson’s fellow classmates succumb to the blackmail, and the magazine is off to the races.  In the midst of this drama, Carson’s deadbeat dad Neal resurfaces with a pregnant fiancé April (Christina Hendricks) and Carson has to deal with familial strife as well.

Struck By Lightning is a decent film.  The cast is top-notch, and there is some fairly witty dialogue interspersed throughout.  Moreover, Glee’s Colfer is a compelling actor.  As much as I love to hear him sing, it is nice to see him in a role where he does not burst into song every few minutes. The supporting cast also delivers.  Rebel Wilson, 2012's "it" girl, is funny and endearing as ever.  Allison Janney also delivers as Colfer's emotionally dependent mother.

Yet, the film fails to break any new ground.  We have seen high school comedy dramas many times before—the cheerleaders, the nerds, the weedheads, the jocks, the drama crew and those who fall outside of all of the labels.  I could rattle off ten films in ten seconds that have dealt with similar themes.  Thus, Struck By Lightning, for me, while entertaining in spots, does not deliver something fresh to the coming of age high school genre.  It may have been better to have Colfer’s character killed at the end instead of at the beginning—that might have added more excitement to the film because it would have been something unexpected. 

In addition, I wanted more of the supporting cast.  Colfer's protagonist is surrounded by self-absorbed, selfish people, but he is equally self-absorbed and flawed.   It would have been interesting to delve a little deeper into the high school cliches.  Looking a little more closely at the other characters could have added more depth to the film and made them characters instead of caricatures.

Struck By Lightning earns a 0.09% rating.  Have a pear martini while viewing this one.  I would recommend watching it On Demand instead of in theaters, because this one was made for TV.