by William Goss
As of August 13th, it was reported that Warner Bros. would be shutting down its Warner Premiere arm, responsible for churning out direct-to-video sequels and spin-offs bearing the names of 'Free Willy,' 'A Cinderella Story,' 'The Lost Boys,' 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' 'House on Haunted Hill,' and 'Get Smart.' They still have their duties, though, and for whatever (probably contractual) reason, dropping the equally low-rent 'Thunderstruck' into a handful of theaters was among them.It’s a small screen-suited, family-friendly fantasy that follows shamelessly in the footsteps of every magical-switch sports comedy from Rookie of the Year to Like Mike, as clumsy teen Brian (Taylor Gray) inexplicably swaps basketball-playing abilities with the exceedingly gifted Kevin Durant (playing himself). From there, Brian gets a bit of an ego as he becomes star of the high school basketball team overnight, while Durant finds himself unable to sink so much as a free throw, much to the chagrin of fans, TV commentators and his agent, Alan (Brandon T. Jackson). Bullies get schooled, best buds get shunned, lessons get learned, so on, so forth.
With John Whitesell (the last two Big Momma’s House films, the insufferable Deck the Halls, the broadly amusing Malibu’s Most Wanted) at the helm, everyone looks like they stepped out of a Sears catalog and acts like it too. Every shot is warmly lit, continuity errors abound, a wacky score suggests that "Scooby-Doo" characters must be tip-toeing along the sidelines, every soundtrack selection reeks of a carefully composed pop-rock knock-off, and overzealous extras populate nearly every scene.
In kind, Gray is a Nickelodeon alum who’s not afraid of mugging it up, and while Durant isn’t much of an actor, he’s just about the only one in sight not trying too hard (or taking a basketball to the groin). Concerned with losing sponsorships, Jackson appears to be channeling the manic energy of Kevin Hart (being consistently dwarfed by Durant’s 6’9” frame doesn’t help the resemblance), while Jim Belushi and his son, Robert, score many of the film’s few honest laughs as the high school team’s coach and assistant coach, respectively. (The latter tends to translate the former’s gruff commands -- “Don’t suck!” -- into actual encouragement -- “Play to your potential!” -- when not trying to pass off an inspiring speech from Hoosiers as his own.)
We’ve got a nerdy best friend who’s mostly nerdy because he refers to “World of Warcraft” and “web-vites” a lot, a snotty little sister, a huffy blonde-haired bully, and no shortage of plugs for the Oklahoma City Thunder™, the Chesapeake Energy Arena™, and Durant’s own brand of Nike™ shoes. The closest thing to a surprise is a teen making a highly improbable reference to Almost Famous, and the closest thing to an upside is that this entire production was probably a boost for the local economy of Baton Rouge, La.On cable and DVD, it’ll either be ignored or endured as lightweight programming. However, for anyone who insists on shelling out the full price of a ticket, 'Thunderstruck' may prove to be something of a groaner.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=24283&reviewer=409
originally posted: 08/25/12 08:40:15