Thunderstruck at first glance seems to have all the pieces necessary to make a successful family film. Down-and-out boy acquires mad basketball skills from NBA baller Kevin Durant. Boy gets the girl, gets cocky, loses the girl, and finds redemption. And what the hell is Jim Belushi doing in this? It's too bad Thunderstruck is so damn boring. Sure, it's completely innocuous and might teach your kids the value of humility and hard work, but there's not a bit of edge or excitement to be found. To say that Durant is the "star" is also a joke, as his performance is little more than an extended cameo. At a scant 94 minutes, Thunderstruck is slow going.
Sixteen-year-old Brian (Taylor Gray) is stuck being the ball boy since his skills don't merit a spot on his school's basketball team. At an Oklahoma City Thunder game, Brian attempts a half-court shot at halftime, which he air-balls miserably, but a chance encounter with Brian's hero, small forward Durant, leads Brian to unintentionally swipe Durant's skills. Brian is suddenly sinking threes and dancing around defenders, while Durant is stuck bricking layups at practice. Brian earns a spot on the basketball team playing for a dopey coach (Belushi), and starts dating pretty transfer student Isabel (Tristin Mays). Brian ignores friend Mitch's (Larramie Doc Shaw) warnings to stay grounded, and starts spitting a bit too much game.
That all sounds kind of cute, right? Why would I rag on such a fun family movie? That's why they pay me the big bucks (hah), and Thunderstruck is dull, dull, dull. It's not really a fun family movie; it's more like a pre-packed set of visual virtues aimed at children. The high schoolers speak in dull, PG-rated quips, but Brian and Isabel do spend time alone with the door closed! Of course they're just surfing the Internet as Brian tries to convince Isabel that he has magically swiped Durant's talent, a claim of which Isabel is rightly skeptical. Brian starts to crack when it becomes clear his team's championship dreams rest squarely on his slouched shoulders. Durant also wants his game back, and only his assistant Alan (Brandon T. Jackson) realizes what happened.
Speaking of Durant; the NBA star only shows up in a few scenes to bumble through inspirational dialogue for Brian and company. Durant should probably keep his day job. After some more floundering, Brian learns succinct lessons in humility and perseverance, and everything works out pretty well. Thunderstruck is passable entertainment only for those who don't know better. The direction by John Whitesell is uninspired, the acting amateur, and the drama uninvolving. There are far wittier and more exciting family dramas available, and Thunderstruck is truly deserving of its direct-to-video release. Young basketball fans might enjoy seeing Durant, but, then again, Thunderstruck might turn them off from the game altogether.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is bright and clear, with good detail and color reproduction. The production design is mediocre, but the transfer displays solid texture and depth. Black levels are inky, colors are nicely saturated, and skin tones are natural. There are no issues with compression artifacts or digital sharpening.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack effectively places viewers amid the action of an NBA game - even if the visuals are obviously chopped together from TV broadcasts and shots of cheap-looking reproductions of the arena. The crowd and court noise wafts into the surrounds, and the LFE supports the pop music tracks that overlay many scenes. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and all elements are nicely spaced. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Thunderstruck gets the typical Warner Brothers "combo pack" treatment, with a Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet digital copy included. The two-disc set is packed in an eco-case, which is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include KD's Klinic (5:27/HD), in which Durant goes over some basic moves; From Backboards to Clapboards (6:01/HD), a short puff piece on Durant; and Coach Z (3:22/HD), an in-character discussion with Belushi. Tristin Mays' Video Blog (3:13/HD) provides some decent on-set footage, and the extras conclude with a few Deleted Scenes (4:45/HD).
Sorry, folks, Thunderstruck is an all-star dud. NBA player Kevin Durant "stars" in this dull family drama, in which a teenager unexpectedly swipes the hoopster's skills and becomes the star of his high-school basketball team. The film is 94 minutes of dull posturing on hard work and persistence, and all the sermonizing and uninvolving drama leave little room for fun. Skip It.
William lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.