“Thunderstruck” is a lighthearted souvenir of the Oklahoma City Thunder's extraordinary performance in the 2011-12 season and the worldwide attention focused on its 6-foot, 9-inch superstar, Kevin Durant.
This is a loose, family-oriented comedy that showcases one of the great success stories of the National Basketball Association and gives Durant a first shot at acting in a low-pressure environment — a placeholder for fans patiently waiting for the Thunder to retake the court this fall.
Shot in Oklahoma City and Baton Rouge, La., “Thunderstruck” focuses on 14-year-old Brian Newall (Taylor Gray), a sweet-natured Oklahoma City high school kid with tons of enthusiasm but zero talent.
Brian studies Durant's highlight reels, but his attempts to recreate No. 35's signature moves only result in insult and injury. His talents on the court are best served as a towel boy for the fictional Eastview High School Eagles, and Brian's attempts to impress new student Isabel Sanchez (played by Jessica Alba look-alike Tristin Mays) are thwarted by videos of his b-ball disasters.
In a high-profile twist of fate at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Brian gets to meet his hero. Durant signs a ball for the teenager, and then strange things start to happen. Brian starts to live out his hoop dreams, scoring points with his dream girl as well as the school's blowhard coach (Jim Belushi), but things look awful across town. Durant cannot sink a shot to save his life, and his agent (Brandon T. Jackson) is getting nervous, sensing that his client's losing streak could be permanent.
If all of this sounds familiar, it is because “Thunderstruck” borrows this supernatural talent-switching premise from 1996's “Space Jam.” The primary difference between the two films is that a teenager from Oklahoma City inadvertently steals the skills instead of malicious interplanetary cartoon characters.
“Thunderstruck” is a low-stakes affair, but Durant turns in an affable, naturalistic performance. A soft-spoken, humble presence off the court, Durant sticks to an emotional range that hews close to real life — a solid decision for his first big-screen appearance. When he hits his rough streak, it's clear that missing shots presented a serious acting challenge for the 23-year-old Durant.
For Oklahoma City moviegoers, one of the great diversions in “Thunderstuck” is seeing the city in a supporting role. While many of the interior shots were filmed in Baton Rouge (and a go-cart scene at Celebration Station with Brian and Isabel has a few too many palm trees for this environment), the downtown shots give “Thunderstruck” the realistic feeling of a city united in its enthusiasm over a winning team. Furthermore, Durant's mother, Wanda Pratt, gets to steal the show in a cameo appearance.
This is a love letter to the Thunder and especially Durant, and young viewers will enjoy seeing the NBA superstar interacting with relatable teen characters. Nothing about “Thunderstruck” is especially original, but Durant's appeal as a good-natured role model at the top of his game comes through even when the comedy elements are strictly junior varsity.
— George Lang
Starring: Kevin Durant, Taylor Gray, Jim Belushi, Brandon T. Jackson, Tristin Mays. (Mild language and rude humor)
To view a trailer of this movie, scan the QR code or go to NewsOK.com.