A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Struck by Lightning is a high school dramedy that will appeal to many tweens and teens thanks to star Chris Colfer (Glee), who also wrote the screenplay (which he also adapted into a book) and produced. As the title suggests, the protagonist is literally struck by lightning and tells his story from beyond the grave. Other than that, there's not much violence, but there is some sexuality (two teen guys are secretly fooling around in the boys' bathroom, and a cheerleader is having an affair with the football coach), language ("s--t," "a--hole," etc.), and substance use (a mother is addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs). The themes could spur conversation about life in (and after) high school, not following the herd, and finding your voice in the crowd.
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What's the story?
In the very first scene, audiences learn that Carson Phillips (Chris Colfer) has been STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and killed. The dead 17-year-old narrator proceeds to explain that he lived in the small town of Clover, Calif. (population: less than 10,000). In flashback, Carson is shown as the editor of the high school newspaper, with big dreams to attend Northwestern's journalism school, write for The New Yorker, and even win a Nobel Prize. When his inept guidance counselor (Angela Kinsey) suggests that he start a literary magazine to up his admissions chances, Carson and his only friend, Malerie (Rebel Wilson), start blackmailing a group of well-known students with scandalous secrets in order to staff their new venture. In the movie's main subplot, the pregnant local pharmacist (Christina Hendricks) discovers she's engaged to Carson's estranged father (Dermot Mulroney), who's still not technically divorced from Carson's alcoholic mom (Allison Janney).
Is it any good?
Colfer is clearly a talented young man; not only is he fabulous performer, but he's also a gifted writer with lots of stories to tell. He penned the children's book The Land of Stories, and also wrote the screenplay for Struck by Lightning (which he started when he was in high school and has since adapted into a book). Basically a misfit's revenge tale, this black comedy explores issues of identity and ambition that most teens will be able to relate to, even if the execution is at times formulaic and derivative of every other high school comedy on film.
What's original is that Colfer's Carson is genuinely uninterested in becoming one of the cool people; he just wants a one-way ticket to his dreams (college, independence, success). Carson's not even a very likable protagonist, but he's surrounded with entertaining supporting characters, like Wilson as his charming sidekick and Modern Family star Sarah Hyland as the popular cheerwitch. Of all the adult characters, the best is Carson's ailing grandma (Polly Bergen), who reminds him of the stories he told as a little kid about a boy who could fly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Struck by Lightning features a posthumous narrator. Does knowing a character is dead right from the beginning ruin the movie for you?
Do stereotypical cliques continue to dominate high school environments in real life as they do in the movie?
How does Carson's death affect those around him, even the people who didn't like him or treat him well when he was alive?
Are the teen characters realistic? What about their choices/behavior?
Themes & Topics
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