Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Thunderstruck (2012)

By Chaz Lipp

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Thunderstruck (2012) on Blogcritics.

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant plays himself in Thunderstruck, an inoffensive, formulaic basketball-oriented comedy that scores zero points for originality. That said, it’s a competently made movie appropriate for audiences of all ages. Young fans of the NBA, and of Durant in particular, are likely to enjoy it.

Anyone who has seen Teen Wolf, Slam Dunk Ernest, or Like Mike will have Thunderstruck figured out early on. Sixteen-year-old Brian (Taylor Gray) is a terrible basketball player and a target of ridicule at his high school. After Brian badly botches a half-court-shot contest at a Thunder game one night, Durant signs a basketball for him as a consolation prize. Their respective basketball abilities magically switch with the exchange of the autographed ball. Durant becomes a joke overnight, while Brian becomes the start of his school team.

That’s all anyone should need to get the idea of what kind of a movie Thunderstruck is. Durant’s agent, Alan (Brandon T. Jackson), frantically tries to pull his star client out of this mysterious slump. Brian becomes adored by his peers, even catching the eye of the school hottie, Isabel (Tristin Mays). James Belushi is on hand as Coach Amross. Belushi gets the most laughs, predictable given the relative greenhorn status of most of the cast. His real-life son Robert has a few funny moments as the school team’s assistant coach (who finally saw Hoosiers recently, much to Coach Amross’ embarrassment).

The biggest disappointment of Thunderstruck is that we never get to see Durant, as one character puts it, “stinking up the court.” Probably for budget reasons, since it would require amassing large crowds and other NBA pros to stage games, we only hear about what a failure Durant has become. Of course we see plenty of Brian’s skills during high school games (Gray displays some nice moves during these segments).

The real comic potential would’ve been in seeing Durant screwing up. Instead we just get a few brief shots of real game clips with Durant missing the odd shot or free throw. On the other hand, the cast is appealing and unaffected. Durant won’t win any acting awards for this, but he underplays to good effect. He’s not trying to be funny or cool. He simply maintains a natural, likable presence.

Thunderstruck looks fine on Blu-ray with a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer. Sharp focus, adequate lighting, no visual artifacts, and realistic colors make this a hard image to criticize. It wasn’t very artfully shot and therefore not interesting to look at, but for what it is, this presentation is without problems. The same can be said for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Nothing stands out as exceptional, but there is some effective surround activity during the basketball scenes. Dialogue clarity is never a concern. LFE presence is a bit light, but not to the film’s detriment.

A few supplemental features are included. Four short featurettes, all basically promotional fluff, offer some glimpses behind-the-scenes. We meet the enthusiastic young cast and get to hear lots of praise of Durant’s acting ability. About five minutes of deleted scenes offer a few bland bits from the cutting room floor. There’s nothing special here, but it’s nice that Warner at least included a few tidbits that kids might enjoy.

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