Struck by Lighting is one of the most accurately titled films to come along in quite a while. That’s because the main character, “Carson Phillips” (Colfer), is actually struck by a bolt of lightning and killed within the first 90 seconds of the movie. Now that the high school senior is dead, he narrates the story of his life in flashback. It’s a fairly interesting tale.
He is editor of his school’s newspaper that no one reads. He is president of the Writing Club which has only one other member. That member is “Malerie” (Wilson) who films every moment of life that she witnesses. He lives with his mother, “Sheryl Phillips” (Janney) who has been living in an alcohol/prescription drug induced haze ever since her ex-husband “Neal Phillips” (Mulrooney) left. Except they aren’t actually divorced which becomes important later.
Carson is a social outcast and has been since he was young, another point made well in flashbacks featuring younger versions of himself. We also learn that he’s wanted to be a writer since he wrote his first story for his grandmother (Bergen). Now that he’s a senior he wants nothing more than to go to Northwestern, study journalism and someday be editor of the New Yorker. His inept guidance counselor tells him that he needs something more to push his application, and she suggests he found a literary magazine. Great idea, except that he can’t get the few staff writers on the newspaper to write anything. How is he going to get anyone to submit anything to a literary magazine? The one-word answer is, blackmail.
Carson has dirt on all of the major players in the senior class and it is all stereotypical stuff. The head cheerleader and student body president is having sex with the football coach, a married man. The stuck-up rich kid is having a gay love affair with the leader of the Drama club. The foreign exchange student is not what he appears to be. There are things about the goth girl who won’t write for the newspaper that she wouldn’t want publicly know. So Carson blackmails them all into writing for his magazine.
Meanwhile his father is engaged to the pharmacist that his mother gets all of her prescriptions from. The pharmacist is pregnant and doesn’t know her intended was married and is a father and she finds out in the worst way possible. Once she knows, she wants to meet Carson. While this is going on, Sheryl wants him back and she doesn’t want Carson leaving her which causes her to do something to try to keep him with her.
Colfer wrote this film and there are moments when his script is right on the money. Perhaps a tad too much narration but it still works. The story ebbs and flows and is not consistent in tempo. Some of the things that should be funny are, and some aren’t. Some that weren’t intended to be funny are. It is dark comedy but not too dark. Janney gives a smart, poignant performance as the woman who feels that life has treated her unfairly and therefore it will do the same to her son and anyone else. It may be amusing to poke fun at the student archetypes but it’s been done. A better choice would have been to come up with more original reasons for students to become subject to Carson’s blackmail.
Still, it’s a good first effort for the Glee star.