Thunderstruck is a derivative and occasionally funny sports fantasy movie in which a klutzy Oklahoma teenager magically swaps talent with NBA star Kevin Durant. The film was made with the cooperation of the NBA, so kids who are basketball fans may get a kick out of seeing some of their favorite players and broadcasters. Occasional bits of edgy humor from the supporting cast make the film a bit less of a slog for adults, but a slog it remains nonetheless. Audio and video are slightly above average for a DTV production, with mild video compression artifacts and a fairly bland front-focused surround mix. Extras consist of a series of featurettes that are more promotional than informative and a quartet of deleted scenes.
Directed By: John Whitesell
Starring: Kevin Durant, Taylor Gray, Brandon T. Jackson, Doc Shaw, Jim Belushi, Robert Belushi, Tristan Mays, Hannah Hayes, William Ragsdale, and Nicole Barré
Studio: Warner Bros.
Film Length: 94 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: December 4, 2012
The Film **½
Thunderstruck is a derivative and sporadically funny family film in which Brian (Gray), a high school klutz in Oklahoma City, makes a wish that results in his switching basketball talent with his hero, Kevin Durant (as himself). Brian quickly becomes the star of his high school team, and even gets the attention of Isabel (Mays), with whom he had been too embarrassed to speak previously. Durant does not fare so well, falling into a slump that makes him the laughingstock of the NBA. .
I will establish up front that this film is little more than a re-hash of elements of “Like Mike”, “Space Jam”, and probably several other family-friendly fantasy sports movies that are escaping my memory at this moment. If an NBA coach ran a team with a playbook as familiar as this film’s transparent three act structure, he would likely finish the season with an 0-82 record.
That being said, when watching a film this derivatively plotted, one starts grasping for what meager pleasures can be found. Chief among these are the supporting cast who get all of the funniest lines. While I am in the camp with people who could never understand how the “According to Jim” television series managed to get renewed for eight consecutive seasons, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of Jim Belushi as the enthusiastically incomprehensible Coach Z. His real life son, Robert, plays his assistant coach, and they work remarkable well as a comic tandem. If you are familiar with southeast Michigan, Belushi’s rhapsodic tales of his glory days playing basketball for and against the most podunk of Michigan educational institution sports programs will carry an extra layer of amusement. Brandon T. Jackson and Doc Shaw turn in broadly amusing performances as the chief comic foils for Durant and Taylor Gray, respectively.
The film also benefits from the full cooperation of the NBA, ensuring plenty of cameos by real life players and broadcasters as themselves that may be enjoyable for professional basketball fans. (Spoiler alert: Charles Barkley does get to describe the post-wish Durant’s play as “turrible”.)
As for Durant himself, he gets by about as well as any of the NBA players who appeared in Space Jam. That is to say he may not be a great actor, but he is certainly a good sport and not afraid to look foolish for the sake of entertainment.
The Video ****
This 1080p AVC-encoding fills the entire 16:9 frame. The cinematography is slightly above average for a DTV production, and appears as if it may have actually been shot on film. There are occasional mild compression artifacts that likely could have been cleared up with a higher bit rate encoding, but for the most part things are bright and highly detailed.
The Audio ***½
The film's sound mix is provided courtesy of a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless encoding. It is a pretty bland mix focused on the front three channels with very little exploitation of the 5.1 sound field, even during the many basketball scenes. The lossless encoding provides the expected high fidelity for music and dialog. There are no alternate language audio tracks.
The Extras **
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos presented in AVC encoded high definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless otherwise indicated:
- A Christmas Story 2 DTV trailer (1:58 - Dolby Digital 5.1 audio)
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy Promo (1:22)
Proper extras consist of the following features accessible from the disc’s menu presented in AVC encoded high definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.
KD’s Klinic (5:27) is a brief featurette that starts with typical electronic-press-kit-style clips of people explaining the movie. The second half discusses how Taylor Gray went about learning some of Kevin Durant’s signature moves. On-camera comments come from Taylor Gray (“Brian”), Doc Shaw (“Mitch”), Producer Mike Karz, Tristan Mays (“Isabel”), Kevin Durant (“Kevin Durant”), Spencer Daniels (“Connor”), Director John Whitesell, and Brandon T. Jackson (“Alan”),
From Blackboards to Clapboards (6:02) Is a featurette that focuses on Durant’s first foray into acting and the particular challenge of figuring out how to look like a bad basketball player. Comments, consisting primarily of over-complimentary comments from everybody except for Durant himself, come from Karz, Executive Producer Eric Goodwin, Whitesell, Durant, Jaackson, Shaw, Gray, and Jim Belushi (“Coach Z”).
Coach Z (3:23) is a tongue in cheek featurette profiling the Coach Z character played by Jim Belushi as if he were a real basketball coach. Comments come from Belushi, Durant, Karz, Whitesell, Jackson, and Gray with one brief humorous interjection from Robert Belushi (“Assistant Coach”).
Tristin Mays’ Video Blog (3:14) Mixes explanatory interview footage from Mays, Kars, and Goodwin with a collection of on-set footage Mays shot during the film’s production. Despite its short length, this actually includes more interesting behind the scenes footage than all of the other featurettes combined.
Deleted Scenes (4:45)
- Brian chases his sister Ashley (Hannah Hayes) throughout the house and yells at her for videotaping his pathetic basketball practice
- Ashley plays the video of Brian for their parents (William Ragsdale & Nicole Barré) who are all laughing hysterically until Brian walks in on them. It ends with Brian getting some sitcom-style fatherly advice.
- Brian buys Isabel a sno-cone after their go cart race, asks her for another date, and receives an ambiguous but hope-inspiring response.
- Kevin Durant gets an acupuncture treatment and some unsolicited basketball advice from the woman administering it.
Ultraviolet Digital Copy The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users with a Flixster account to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with Flixster desktop software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive. Additional viewing options are available from online services such as Vudu and Cinemanow which allow linking to Ultraviolet accounts.
SD DVD The two-disc combo pack also comes bundled with a copy of the film on SD DVD. The SD DVD presents the film in 16:9 enhanced SD video with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track and subtitles in English SDH, Spanish, and French. When the disc is first played, it includes the following promos, presented in 4:3 standard definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio unless otherwise indicated:
- A Christmas Story 2 DTV trailer (1:57)
- Scribblenauts Unlimited Video Game Promo (1:36)
- Injustice: Gods Among Us Video Game Promo (1:53)
- Ultraviolet digital copy promo (1:21 - 16:9 enhanced video)
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey theatrical trailer (2:31 - 16:9 enhanced video)
Special Features on the SD DVD include the same KD’s Clinic, Coach Z, and Deleted Scenes extras that appear on the Blu-ray Disc. There is no chapter selection feature from the disc menu, although the film is encoded on SD DVD with the same chapter breaks as the Blu-ray version.
The Blu-ray disc and standard definition DVD are enclosed in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with spindles/hubs on the inside front and back covers. A paper insert to the case includes redemption instructions and the code for redeeming an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. The hard case is in turn enclosed in a slipcover that reproduces the same cover art with additional information promoting the SD DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy.