Movie Review - Struck By Lightning

Chris Colfer made a name for himself by starring on the TV series Glee where he proved how great a singer he is, but Colfer is also an accomplished writer as much as he is a performer. He's writing books now, but he also wrote and produced this movie a couple of years ago. It's similarly about an aspiring writer, a high school student, whose life is cut short when a lightning bolt strikes him dead.

Chris Colfer plays Carson Phillips, a senior at Clover High who runs the school newspaper and who aspires to attend Northwestern University and become a journalist. To impress the admissions office, Carson decides to create a literary magazine. He wants the content to come from fellow students, but everybody in the school hates Carson and doesn't want to be writers, so he concocts a plan to blackmail them into writing pieces for the magazine.

Colfer's filmmaking tone is akin to Todd Solondz, but the problem is Colfer doesn't write enough jokes. The comedy isn't as great as it could have been. Colfer's Carson is just perpetually bitter and misanthropic from beginning to end. Considering the way his single mom, Cheryl, played by Allison Janney, is and the way his father Neal, played by Dermot Mulroney, left to marry a pharmacist named April, played by Christina Hendricks, it's obvious why Carson is so bitter.

Colfer is openly gay but it's odd how Carson's sexuality is never addressed. There is an implication that Carson might be gay, but it's not stated outright or made clear, and I don't know why. Carson's sexuality isn't necessary, but it left me wondering at the end when in narration Carson says, "I'm happy." There are some things that Carson used to justify that claim of happiness, but I didn't buy Carson's claim at all. He never smiles at all throughout this film, aside from a brief grin, so to me this boy was never happy.

We never see him enjoy the thing he purports to love. He says he wants to be a writer, a journalist, but never at any point do we see him enjoying writing or being a journalist. He's always frustrated because he basically has to do the school newspaper all by himself. It makes sense why he would be frustrated, but it doesn't help his happiness argument at the end.

Carson at no point connects with anyone. Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette and Pitch Perfect) plays Malerie, a fellow student who records everything with her video camera and who helps the school newspaper but is a kind of an idiot who plagiarizes. She's supposedly Carson's friend but only because she shows up at the meetings. She's the only one who shows up. Outside that, I don't think he cares much for her. I don't think Carson cares much for anyone.

Like with Glee, Colfer puts in place stereotypical, high school characters: the cheerleader, the jock, the goth girl and etc. Aside from a brief sequence, which shows these stereotypical characters writing for the magazine, Colfer doesn't really dig into these characters. It's perhaps unfair because it's a TV series, but, at least Glee digs into its characters more. Colfer's script may have done so, but director Brian Dannelly keeps this movie short and keeps these stereotypical characters at an arm's length, as Carson does.

It would have been better if Carson had pulled some of these people, or any person, a little bit closer. He spends the majority of his time learning other people's secrets and accidentally so. Often, he stumbles upon sexual secrets that his fellow students have and then he holds it over their heads. A good reversal would have been if someone, anyone, learned a secret about him, a secret that's sexual or other wise.

There are great adult guest stars who fill out the cast. Angela Kinsey who plays Carson's guidance counselor is doing her shtick or basically playing a version of her character in The Office. Brad William Henke has had a bit more fun with his role here and Henke has had interesting roles in films like The Assassination of Richard Nixon and Me and You and Everyone We Know, but most recently he's been standout in television too, in series like Lost and Justified. I wish he like Hendricks and Mulroney were given more to do.

There was a gag involving Carson's dead body that was gross and awful. It was totally unnecessary and absolutely not funny. Regardless, this role separates Colfer from his character on Glee. It shows that he can do more, namely curse up a storm when he wants to do so.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 23 mins.


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