I honestly can't even believe what I just saw. Thunderstruck will never win any academy awards, but it will go down as one of the most insane and surreal movie experiences of my life.
Before we get to tearing this movie to pieces, let's get a super-intense plot summary in. The main character, Brian, sucks at basketball. He's made fun of by his classmates. He wants to get better. So he goes to a Thunder game, shoots a half-court shot, and hits Rumble in the head. KD then signs a ball and gives it to him, accidentally giving him his basketball talent. The kid becomes a star on his school basketball team, and forgets about his girlfriend, his best friend, and the ethics of teamwork. Meanwhile, KD misses a lot of shots, and the Thunder are about to miss the playoffs. KD's agent runs around trying to figure out what happened. Will KD get his powers back in time? Will Brian ever come back down to Earth? Will Brian be able to play basketball without Kevin Durant's powers? Will it rain during Spring?
The plot of this movie could have been carried out in about 15 minutes, but somehow, some way, it's stretched out into 1.5 hours. They mostly accomplish this by killing a horse, and then proceeding to continue bludgeoning it until it is literally an unrecognizable pile of flesh. So Kevin Durant lost his talent? Let's watch him miss shots....oh, about 20 times.
The movie also intersperses pointless cameo scenes that have little to do with the plot. Candace Parker walks in at some point to yell at KD for playing badly, because she's supposed to be branded as the "Female KD". Why? Because she was a client of Goodwin Sports back then. Kevin Durant's Mom brings Kevin Durant some chicken soup. (Not Campbells, though. That's reserved for Donovan McNabb.) And she dresses in a cheerleader uniform. Then she goes away, never to be seen or heard from again. Oh, and we see the NBA on TNT crew about 5 or 6 times throughout the movie, mostly just talking about KD and further increasing the run time. Even the in-studio segments aren't really funny, because the whole reason people watch that show is for the unscripted quality. Heck, even Conan appears at one point (because, you know, they signed a deal with Turner).
The funny thing is, Bob Barry Jr. serves more of a purpose in the plot than Kevin Durant's Mom, the entire NBA on TNT crew, Conan O'Brien, and Candace Parker combined because he reminds the agent (through a news report) of the night Kevin Durant lost his talent. Linda Cavanaugh and Kevin Ogle get a line too.
The characters are mostly forgettable. The girlfriend of Brian is supposed to be 16, but she's actually 22. She mainly serves to comfort him and tell him when he starts acting like a jerk. Why are they together? What basis does their relationship have? Nothing is really explained, and I'm pretty sure she didn't know too much about basketball, which Brian seems to be obsessed with.
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Then there's the coach of Brian's basketball team, and his assistant coach. The coach mainly serves to give these nonsensical pep talks and make really tired jokes about "the old days" when he played for some small college. The assistant coach butts into every single statement the coach makes, stealing his thunder. The routine of them playing off of each other becomes old very quickly, because all of it is recycled jokes or bad pop culture references. The most confusing part of it all is how the coach shows up late in the movie to give an emotional talk to Brian about being a leader or something like that. Wait, wasn't this the same coach who constantly shat upon Brian early in the movie, and couldn't run a basketball team? Why is his advice valuable all of a sudden?
There's also Kevin Durant's agent, who doesn't act at all like a sports agent. He's apparently Kevin Durant's best friend, and mainly serves as the "zany guy" to bounce off of Kevin Durant's straight man routine. Normally this might work, and I could see the two working reasonably well together in another setting. But in this movie, they're given no material to work with. Every line said by the agent can be summed up as, "KD, you need to get your talent back.". Every line said by KD can be summed up as, "Man, I need to get my talent back, but I'm a little skeptical of your reasons as to how I can get my talent back."
Lastly, you've got the minor characters, who are cardboard cutouts more than anything else. Brian has a nerdy best friend who reminds Brian when he's being a jerk. There's a basketball player who's bullies Brian for no real reason at all. Then, after he gets shown up by Brian, the audience is supposed to sympathize with him and cheer him on. What, exactly, did he do to redeem himself? Questions abound. Brian has a family as well. Here's what we know about them: The sister is an annoying sister. The Mom is excited and over-protective. The Dad is supportive. Wait, I think I just described every sitcom within the last ten years!
The production quality was....abysmal. They must have spent a whole 30 minutes editing this movie. I don't even know where to start. At one point, Brian just found out he has KD's talent, so he jumps over a car (ala Blake Griffin) while his friend throws up the ball and films it with a smartphone from a terrible angle. When we see the clip his friend uploaded later, instead of seeing the clip from the smartphone perspective, we see it from the angle of the movie cameras. Ah, yes. The invisible professional camera crew that happened to be filming the kid at the time.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There's one scene where Kevin Durant talks to his agent outside, and his eyes are literally closed throughout the entire duration of the scene. I'm not even kidding. I mean, Kevin Durant's acting wasn't bad....but why couldn't they find a way to get the sun out of his eyes?
And what about the empty seats that we can see during some stadium scenes? How is Brian sitting in his room, watching random HD highlights of Kevin Durant on his TV? Why does everything look really horribly green-screened? Agh.
Aside from the plot, characters, and production quality, there's still some inexplicable things about this movie. Where the hell did this kid go to school? The school's team was the "Eastland Eagles", but I just liked to think of it as "An Edmond School for Rich White Kids". The lunch room had plasma screens everywhere, with notes telling you not to turn them off. 1984, anyone? The kids lunches looked like gourmet meals. At one point, Brian had a pulled pork sandwich, fries, popchips, a fruit, a desert, and a milk. Brian's girlfriend was eating a full-on chef salad that looked like it came straight from an expensive New York Deli. In terms of school lunches, they were eating outright feasts. Heck, even science class was well-funded, with every student able to work on their own pristine model of the human body. My science class had 5 or 6 people per frog to dissect. At home, Brian practically lived in a two-floor mansion.
Later in the movie, when Brian loses his skill and has to win on his talent alone, we find out that one of the players on his team can dunk. That's right, this team was struggling to get within 30 points of other schools, but one of the kids on the team could dunk? What?
One scene of the movie takes place at Celebration Station, which you might think is cool because it's a local place. But nope, Celebration Station is actually a regional chain, and there's one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Considering I often hit up the local CS mini-golf links, I was sorely disappointed.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this movie is that it was funded by Durant's old agent, Aaron Goodwin. Goodwin's name (or that of his agency) is plastered all over the credits of the movie. This makes it easy to understand why this movie was made, and why an agent plays a major supporting role. Yet, Goodwin Sports no longer represents Kevin Durant. So I can only imagine how cold both parties must feel about this financial venture. Given its' extremely limited release, I don't see how it could make a profit.
You might say that this is a kids movie, and that's a somewhat fair argument to make against its' corniness. But, I have two counter-arguments. For one, why is Brian a 16 year old? Why couldn't the main character have been, you know, a kid? And why is his girlfriend 22 years old? Secondly, why is there an alleged child sex offender in this movie? Yes, Jim Miller got a short cameo before he was fired for sexual misconduct allegations, and the producers didn't bother to cut him out of the movie.
The soundtrack was strange to behold as well. It was a weird compilation of electronic beats that you might hear in the background of a local rap artist's song. I guess they were supposed to give the general feeling of "basketball", but I just felt like I was in a club. A few songs break that mold and sound like pop hits that you might recognize. But upon close examination of the credits, you'll find out that all of the songs are just remixes of those more popular songs. Because, of course, this production couldn't afford to license actual music.
I know that you're going to call me an old grouch for not liking this movie. But this movie is terrible. If I wanted a kid to see a totally awesome basketball movie for kids, I'd show him Space Jam. I'd show him The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. I'd show him Air Bud. I'd show him Like Mike. Hell, I'd show him Kazaam. I wouldn't show him this movie. The characters are stereotypes, and generally unmemorable. The jokes are things I've seen recycled thousands of times. The plot takes no unexpected turns, and most of the time you're just begging for it to end.
To be fair, I had a fantastic time watching this movie. Why? Well, because I was watching my city (and portions of Baton Rouge made to look like my city) on the big screen. No Hollywood movie has ever really featured Oklahoma City at all. I was watching one of my favourite basketball players hammer his way through ridiculous lines and local celebrities making unexpected cameos. Best of all, I watched it during a virtually empty midnight showing where my friend and I got to tear into the movie all we wanted.
But if you don't live in Oklahoma City, and Kevin Durant is no more special to you than LeBron James, I honestly couldn't see you liking this movie. Sure, if you're under the age of 10, you might come out being all jazzed up about being Kevin Durant. And I'm glad that it will bring joy into their lives.
However, the film just doesn't do enough to keep the viewer interested. The plot, jokes, and characters are all ripped straight out of movies we've already seen. The plot is extremely simplistic as well, and we're made to watch pointless scenes that go nowhere over and over again. But hey, if you're a Thunder fan and just like seeing Oklahoma City on the big screen, then you'll have a good time watching this movie. Just don't expect to actually like the movie itself....or ever watch it again.