Glee’s Chris Colfer makes the jump from television to cinema with Struck By Lightning, which he adapts from his own book Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal. Despite small glimpses of well-handled humour, Colfer’s feature is essentially a self-serving vanity project that falls flat.
Colfer plays Carson Phillips, a high school student with a dream of going to Northwestern University and ultimately becoming the youngest editor of the New York Times. Phillips begins a literary magazine to increase his chances of fulfilling his dream, but negative response from his fellow students sees him turn to blackmail to make it a success.
The young actor deserves a huge amount of credit for having penned and starred in his own feature at the age of 22 – surely no easy feat. Unfortunately, Colfer makes everyone well aware of his supreme talents, with every other character in Struck By Lightning’s narrative serving as a pawn to make Carson Phillips look witty, amusing, or intelligent. This is chock full of tired characters from the alcoholic mother to the awkward, semi-present father and a host of high school clichés and stereotypes. Colfer acknowledges that these are stereotypes himself – yet does nothing to subvert or debunk them.
The main issue here is undoubtedly the character of Carson Phillips. The character comes across as smug, sarcastic, egotistical and just plain bitchy – as the narrative progresses it appears we are meant to grow closer and sympathise with Carson, which ultimately never happens. Colfer seems to use then character’s nastiness as a stepping board for the film’s humour – yet it ultimately feels mean spirited and unlikeable.
Rebel Wilson and Alison Janney’s quirky performances get the occasional laugh, but it is clear that these characters only exist as tools for Phillips to bounce-off and showcase his ‘witty’ demeanour. Fortunately, Polly Bergen brings a much-needed emotional edge to Struck By Lightning as Phillips’ Alzheimers suffering Grandma who frequently points out how nasty he has become.
Struck By Lightning is a flat, uninspiring high-school feature lead by one of the most unlikeable protagonists the genre has seen.