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2012 | PG | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 24 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Thunderstruck Blu-ray

Thunderstruck Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 24, 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since the release of “Like Mike,” leaving “Thunderstruck” ample room to pick up where the teen-centric sports fantasy left off. However, while “Like Mike” at least made a faint attempt to conjure curiosity concerning the iffy magic dust it was spreading, “Thunderstruck” doesn’t even attempt to pinpoint its basketball enchantment. It’s a peculiar creative choice in an otherwise bland, feebly acted comedy, concentrating more on laughs and half-realized messages of adolescent responsibility than solidifying a truly bizarre premise, at least to a point where it appears as though the production actually cared about telling a coherent story.

A hapless teen with dreams of high school basketball stardom, Brian (Taylor Gray) can’t help but embarrass himself in front of his classmates, stuck as a lowly team manager under Coach Amross (Jim Belushi) and Assistant Coach Dan (Robert Belushi). A monster fan of Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant (playing himself), Brian is thrilled to take in a game with his father (William Ragsdale). Winning an opportunity to compete in a halftime half-court shot contest, Brian bungles his moment in the spotlight, only to meet Kevin on the sidelines, openly wishing he had the superstar’s talent. Magically, Kevin and Brian swap basketball skills, leaving the NBA player with little success on the court, while the teen enjoys the glory of his newfound powers, becoming a key member of his school’s team. Riding a wave of victories, Brian loses sight of what’s important to him, ditching friends and mangling a good thing with crush Isabel (Tristin Mays). Piecing together his client’s misfortune, Kevin’s agent Alan (Brandon T. Jackson) works feverishly to reunite the pair, hoping to restore the star’s ability before he’s fired from the Thunder.

I’m all for movies willing to trim a little scripted fat, but there is an abyssal storytelling hole in “Thunderstruck” that I can’t believe isn’t addressed. That whoosh of magic that swaps basketball abilities between Kevin and Brian? Never explained. It just is, with the production looking to sneak a bizarre concept past the audience without even trying to articulate how such an event came to be. There’s no irate leprechaun, no witch with a grudge, not even a mischievous alien presence. The supernatural event simply passes on by without a second thought, as though kids around the world were stealing pro athlete skills on a daily basis. With a feature as simplistic and routine as “Thunderstruck,” the least the screenplay could’ve offered was a straightforward, perhaps blessedly outrageous explanation for the miracle.

With undefined magic in the air, “Thunderstruck” doesn’t bother to color outside the lines, catching director John Whitesell (“Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son”) guiding the film in a weirdly unenthused manner. Of course, with such formulaic tale to contend with, it makes perfect sense to find the drama tedious, the comedy irritating (Whitesell loves to whack people in the crotch with basketballs), and the messages muffled. Brian doesn’t actually grow as a character during the movie, showing little awareness of his alienating rise in popularity, casually ditching friends when an opportunity to thrash opponents on the court arrives. Trouble is, Gray plays the character so earnestly (he’s Nickelodeon trained after all), it’s impossible to believe Brian would grow into a ghoul overnight (shades of “Teen Wolf”). The same goes with the boy’s relationship with Isabel, which, like everything else in this feature, is left unexplained and rendered unnatural.

I recognize that complaining about characterization in a picture built solely to market a basketball star (and shoes, with Nike commercials worked into the fabric of the film) is ludicrous, but “Thunderstruck” often registers as lazy, dodging storytelling effort whenever it can. After all, this leaves more room for two generations of Belushis to trade improvisations, which is what most ticket buyers have paid to see, right?

Durant isn’t an actor, but he’s amiable enough, showing a lack of on-screen arrogance that’s appealing, keeping “Thunderstruck” gentle when the supporting cast gets rowdy trying to secure laughs. Again, this is such a casually nutty picture, it really should coast on its own peculiarity, finding pockets of originality as it lumbers to a predictable finale. Interestingly, the feature was produced by Warner Premiere, the DTV unit of Warner Brothers, responsible for such gems as “Lost Boys: The Tribe” and “Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective” (also the upcoming “A Christmas Story 2”), leaving the theatrical release of “Thunderstruck” understandably confusing. It’s a small-scale effort for small screens that should’ve stayed on television. It’s not something worth a trip to the multiplex to see.

Starring: Kevin Durant, Taylor Gray, Jim Belushi
Director: John Whitesell

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