Chris Colfer has taken the suggestion of "write what you know" to heart. His script for "Struck By Lightning" isn't autobiographical -- he's never been hit by a lightning bolt -- but it's rife with elements of his own less-than-happy days in high school.
Writing the story may have been cathartic for the "Glee" star turned screenwriter, but through it he's produced a film that's very relatable to anyone who has ever had a bad day in school.
Colfer does double duty as writer and star. He plays Carson Phillips, a high school student who doesn't believe his work for the school is fully appreciated. Even his guidance counselor suggests he doesn't have the necessary school résumé to get into the college of his dreams. His solution is to publish a literary magazine. When the students show an apathy for the project, Carson resorts to some social arm twisting.
It would have been very easy for "Struck By Lightning" to be little more than a made-for-cable Nickelodeon movie with its story of high school angst and agony. But with a slight darkness to the script and an impressive cast, the film has more gravitas.
Director Brian Dannelly has surrounded Colfer with a first-rate cast that includes the always dependable Allison Janney as his mother and the wickedly funny Sarah Hyland as a school cheerleader. The best casting is Rebel Wilson as Carson's best friend and confidante. Wilson's rapidly becoming one of the funniest females in films, with movies such as "Pitch Perfect." She can make both dry, smart humor and slapstick comedy work -- a feat that not every comedian can handle.
The film also gets a kick from Colfer's smart script, which blends dark humor with deep emotions. Colfer never gets too heavy-handed despite trying to make some very definite points about determination and disappointment. The script benefits from the solid cast who make the exchanges feel conversational.
There are a few problems, such as some very stereotypical characters. Do cheerleaders always have to be narcissistic witches? A secondary storyline about Carson's father seems tacked on to the main story. But, overall, the script is a solid effort by the young screenwriter.
"Struck By Lightning" works because it feels very personal. The film probably won't be a thunderous hit, but it does have all the right elements to make it worth seeing.
"Struck By Lightning," unrated. Stars Chris Colfer, Rebel Wilson, Allison Janney, Sarah Hyland, Christina Hendricks. Directed by Brian Dannelly. Running time: 84 minutes. Grade: B | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org