It’s almost impossible to dislike Chris Colfer, the young Glee star who wrote and stars in the high school comedy Struck by Lightning, which plays like a cheerful, gay Revenge of the Nerds. However, never having seen Glee, I’ll make two observations about Colfer: 1) Yes, he’s very likable, but 2) as a writer, he’s no John Hughes. Struck by Lightning means well, but its gentle dissection of high school cliques brings nothing new to the genre, except the fact that being out isn’t the problem for the hero, Carson (Colfer). Instead, his greater challenge is blackmailing fellow students into contributing to his campus literary journal—another trophy on his college app—so he can escape his hick town and fraught family (alkie mother Allison Janney, runaway dad Dermot Mulroney, pregnant prospective stepmom Christina Hendricks). With its voiceover narration from the grave (a nod to Sunset Boulevard), the movie seems like bloodless payback for Colfer’s own high school slights and indignations. As he steamrolls every obstacle, defeats or humiliates every enemy (abetted by plucky BFF Rebel Wilson), Carson is like an 18-year-old Machiavelli, cocky and self-confident without becoming obnoxious. He’s a graceful winner, perhaps because Colfer has so obviously transcended his hero’s modest circumstances. There’s no bitterness, no sex, no bullying, but also little wit. Broadly directed by Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Struck by Lightning is mainly intent on self-affirmation and forgiveness. There’s even a spin-off-novel project, because the precocious Colfer seems determined to be a Master of All Media Platforms. And if the books and screenplays don’t work, he’ll always have Twitter (1.6 million followers and counting).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 9, 2013