DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: January 11, 2013 (limited, and on VoD)
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Brian Dannelly
Actors: Chris Colfer, Rebel Wilson, Allison Janney, Christina Hendrix, Polly Bergan, Dermot Mulroney, Angela Kinsey

Do you enjoy the humor of TV’s Glee? Did you like the catty put-downs in the 2004 Mandy Moore movie Saved!? If so, Struck by Lightning, written and executive produced by Glee actor Chris Colfer and directed by Brian Dannelly—the man behind the camera for Saved!—might strike your fancy. If, however, you’re weary of stories with main characters who condescend to everyone around them, stay far away from this one.

Colfer plays high-school student Carson, who dies after being struck by lightning in the film’s opening moments and then narrates the events that led up to that event. Carson is the driving force—the only force—behind his high school’s neglected writers’ club ("worse than detention," in Carson’s telling). Frustrated by the lack of submissions for the school’s literary endeavors and desperate for a calling card that might help land him a slot in Northwestern University’s freshman class, Carson and his friend Malerie (Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect) concoct a scheme to generate literary submissions via blackmail. They find dirt on several fellow students, then give them an ultimatum: Contribute to the school’s literary magazine or be exposed for various misdeeds (many of which are sexual in nature).

Carson thinks better of himself than everyone around him, and Colfer’s script revels in Carson’s sense of superiority to his peers. The film is told from Carson’s perspective, so it invites viewers to join in with the derisive view of every young character except Carson and Malerie.

Whenever the story focuses on Carson and his high-school hi-jinx, Struck by Lightning plays like a listless episode of a TV comedy show, with some raunchy humor. What keeps Struck by Lightning from being beneath contempt is its collection of adult characters, nearly all of whom show far more complexity than the one-dimensional students. There’s Allison Janney (The Help) as Carson’s mom, broken down by her husband’s years-ago abandonment of her and Carson, and who has channeled life’s disappointments into a dependence on alcohol and pills. Under their influence, she’s a bit too free in expressing her every thought and emotion to her son. Dermot Mulroney (The Wedding Date) is Carson’s dad, suddenly reappearing with news about a new fiancée. That character, played by the luminous Christina Hendricks (Drive), brings compassion and heart to Struck by Lightning. Whenever she’s onscreen, the movie lights up—to the point where you might find yourself longing for the movie to be more about her character than Carson’s. Even the dim-bulb school counselor played by Angela Kinsey, known for her recurring role on TV’s The Office, is more fun to watch than the one-note performances by the weaker cast members. Also compelling is Polly Bergan as Carson’s senile grandmother—the one elder toward whom Carson shows compassion.