Review of Thunderstruck


Movie Review: "Thunderstruck"

-- Rating: PG (for mild language and rude humor)
Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2012
Directed by: John Whitesell
Genre: Family

When charismatic superstars like Shaquille O'Neal retire from basketball, the NBA has to begin promoting some of the younger talent so that the media will take an interest in them. Once such talent is Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who plays himself in "Thunderstruck," a family comedy that has a heartwarming message about hard work and talent and how they often go hand-in-hand.

Durant stars as himself, a young man blessed with superior talent who hopes to lead the Thunder to several NBA championships. He is as humble as he is skilled with a basketball, which is a quality that few famous athletes can claim. His amiableness comes across well on the screen in this, his debut role as an actor. It helps that he is playing himself, but screen presence can't be taught, and Durant definitely has it.

While Durant is busy defeating his overmatched opponents, high school student Brian (Taylor Gray) is doing the exact opposite. He has big dreams of being a hoops superstar, yet he can't seem to elevate himself above towel boy status on his team, led by Coach Amross (Jim Belushi). He is uncoordinated and has no real feel for the game, so his dreams are somewhat dashed.

He is a huge fan of the Thunder, so his father Joe (William Ragsdale) buys tickets for them to take in a game, hoping to lift his son's spirits. He gets a surprise chance to compete in a halftime contest where contestants must make a half-court shot. He botches his attempt, his hopes dashed once again. On his way off the court, he runs into Durant, who is waiting to play the second half. He is polite and encouraging to Brian, who wishes out loud that he could have Durant's talent.

An unexplained fantasy element kicks into gear at this point in the story, as Brian's wish somehow comes true, much like the mom-and-daughter body swap in "Freaky Friday." All of Durant's talent is swapped into Brian's body, while Brian's bad coordination and lack of skills are transferred to Durant. The effect begins almost immediately, meaning that the second half of the game is filled with Durant missing baskets by miles and letting passes slip through his fingers. He has no idea what happened but tries to chalk it up to a bad day.

Meanwhile, Brian realizes his newly acquired talent and begins using it on the court. Coach Amross sees his skills and doesn't really question it; he is just happy to have someone so dominant on the team. Brian quickly ascends to high school jock star and begins to alienate his friends, including crush Isabel (Tristin Mays). It is similar to the way Michael J. Fox's character began to get a bloated ego after basketball court success in "Teen Wolf."

Meanwhile, Durant's agent, who is addicted to fist bumping for some reason, begins to figure out what happened to his client. He frantically tries to locate Brian and get them in the same room so they can reexchange talents. Brian obviously doesn't want this to happen, and his inflated sense of self won't allow him to see the harm he is doing to Durant's career by not trying to give his skills back to him.

At this point, "Thunderstruck" turns into a cautionary tale of popularity and ego gone wrong. As more of his old friends are alienated, Brian realizes that his new friends may not be on his side after all. Being the toast of the town has some downfalls, and he learns every one of them in quick succession. The film stops just short of becoming too preachy, but writers Eric Champnella and Jeff Farley make sure their script gets the point across about honesty, responsibility, and the trappings of fame. These are good lessons for children to learn, and they may even benefit some adults as well.

Durant may not be quite the superstar that Michael Jordan or Shaq were in their heyday, but "Thunderstruck" proves that he may get there in due time. He holds his own in the film, even though he has a great supporting cast like Belushi and Ragsdale behind him. That isn't to say that he will become an award-winning actor when he retires from basketball, but as long as he keeps getting good scripts that play to his strengths, he'll prove that his performance in this film is more than just beginner's luck. Don't be surprised to see him in future films.

Rating: 4 out of 5