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Thunderstruck: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo Pack Review

ThunderStruck (2012) movie poster Thunderstruck

Theatrical Release: August 24, 2012 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: John Whitesell / Writers: Jeff Farley (story and screenplay), Eric Champnella (screenplay)

Cast: Kevin Durant (Kevin Durant), Taylor Gray (Brian Newall), Brandon T. Jackson (Alan Garrett), Doc Shaw (Mitch), Jim Belushi (Coach Zitowski), Tristin Mays (Isabel Sanchez), Spencer Daniels (Connor O'Brien), Hana Hayes (Ashley Newall), Robert Belushi (Assistant Coach), William Ragsdale (Joe Newall), Nicole Barrι (Laurie Newall), Donovan Dunn (Derek Nader), Christopher Berry (Carnie), Wanda Pratt (KD's Mom), Marv Albert (Himself), Bob Barry, Jr. (Himself), Linda Cavanaugh (Herself), Steve Kerr (Himself), Reggie Miller (Himself), Kevin Ogle (Himself), Mascot (Himself), Charles Barkley (Himself), Shaquille O'Neal (Himself), Ernie Johnson (Himself), Kenny Smith (Himself), Conan O'Brien (Himself - uncredited)

Thunderstruck available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and for download 12/4!
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I vividly recall the day I requested Thunderstruck for review. It might have been the first I heard of this movie. The Oklahoma City Thunder had just defeated the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Thunder's star small forward Kevin Durant had clearly outplayed the Heat's MVP LeBron James, especially in the fourth quarter.
I've been a Chicago Bulls fan on and off for over twenty years and this year was the most "on" I'd been in a while. When they were eliminated in the first round, I lent my support to the next obvious choice: anyone but the Miami Heat. I rooted for the Pacers as they took a lead, then the Celtics as they came shockingly close to defeating the manufactured powerhouse. After the Thunder beat the fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs four straight times in the Western Conference Finals, I knew they had what it took to continue depriving the unlikable "King" James from the first of his many promised championships.

The night of my request, the Thunder lost a close Game 2, a non-called foul by James on Durant one of the deciding factors. I still expected the Thunder to reclaim home court advantage and win the series. The Heat's Big Three may have accomplished more in the league than the Thunder's, but Oklahoma City had depth, youth, and speed in their favor. My appreciation for the Thunder proved to be short-lived, though, as they lost three in a row in Miami to disappointingly give LeBron his first title.

LeBron may have won that Finals and overpowered the lanky 6-foot-9 Durant, who, plagued by foul trouble, was reassigned to guarding the Heat's point guard. Nonetheless, forced to choose between the NBA's two best players, I'll take Durant any day. Durant is the much purer shooter and more clutch performer. James, on the other hand, has long had a chip on his shoulder, abandoning Cleveland to form a super team with two fellow future Hall of Famers. James may be extraordinarily talented and dedicated to winning, but he's also arrogant and humorless. Since becoming the #1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft straight out of high school, James has repeatedly been compared to Michael Jordan. But whereas the entire world seemed to unite to cheer on Jordan's achievements, a good portion of the NBA fan base actively roots against James, turned off by his constant complaining to refs, his egregious 75-minute television special "The Decision", and his glaring ego.

Durant, on the other hand, is far more likable, charismatic and easygoing in his commercials and press conference interviews. It is little surprise, then, to find Durant, not James, being the first NBA star to headline a major family film since Michael Jordan did it in 1996's Space Jam. "Major" may be stretching it. Thunderstruck was released to just 250 theaters for a single week at the end of summer. It came to DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet combo pack this week carrying the Warner Premiere logo usually reserved for direct-to-video fare. While $587,211 in box office earnings prove that Thunderstruck did have a theatrical release, Space Jam made that paltry sum with much lower ticket prices before noon of its opening day.

Thunderstruck has more than just Warner and NBA star to connect to Space Jam. It also takes a major plot point from Jordan's Looney Tunes movie, in which the malicious Monstars had stolen the basketball talent of various NBA players (among them, Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley). In Thunderstruck, one 16-year-old OKC fan inadvertently acquires Durant's skills from him.

Kevin Durant plays himself in the family comedy "Thunderstruck." After inheriting Kevin Durant's basketball talent, high school scrub Brian Newall (Taylor Gray) got game.

A sophomore at Oklahoma's Eastview High School, Brian Newall (Taylor Gray) is a nobody. Cut from the basketball team two years in a row, Brian serves as manager, distributing towels to the players of the below-average squad. The coach (Jim Belushi) doesn't even know his name. When kids at school are noticing Brian, it's only because an embarrassing video of him balling in his driveway is going viral. Brian's father lifts his spirits with a spontaneous outing to the Thunder game, at which Brian is picked to take the half court shot during a halftime promotion. He misses everything, except for Thunder mascot Rumble the Bison. But Brian does get to meet Kevin Durant, who autographs a basketball for him. Through this basketball, Brian and Durant's abilities are swapped.

Durant instantly goes ice cold, beginning a slump like no other in the history of sports. Brian, meanwhile, becomes amazing, sinking 3-pointers with regularity, speeding past defenders with his deft ball handling skills, and even being able to dunk. Coach Zitowski not only lets Brian suit up, but encourages him to become the team's primary offensive option.

Durant's quick transition from league scoring leader to national laughingstock weighs heavily on his agent Alan (Brandon T. Jackson), who figures out what's happened sooner than anyone else in the film. But restoring Durant's on-court prowess requires trial and error.

While Space Jam may be the launching point, the Michael J. Fox comedy Teen Wolf seems to be a direct inspiration on other story aspects. No, Brian does not grow fur and fangs, but he does become self-involved, forgetting his nerdy best friend (Larramie Doc Shaw) and causing fetching new transfer student Isabel (Tristin Mays) to lose interest.

Kevin Durant's agent Alan (Brandon T. Jackson) tries to help him get his game back. Jim Belushi is uncharacteristically entertaining in the role of Coach Zitowski, with his son Robert playing his assistant as a double act.

Thunderstruck is standard fare: part body switch comedy without the full body switch, part family film with the usual believe-in-yourself message. Such a familiar movie should be bad and easily written off, but this one proves to be more appealing than expected. Obviously, I come to the film biased, as someone who enjoys playing and, to a lesser degree, watching basketball.
That perspective qualifies me to recognize that the movie knows the game well enough. It executes scenes of play with more authenticity than, say, Teen Wolf or Air Bud. Gray actually appears to have a good amount of basketball talent, only his aided dunks and one block striking as outlandish. The teenaged actor, who is apparently best known as Bucket from the cancelled single-season Nickelodeon sitcom "Bucket & Skinner's Epic Adventures", is much less convincing as the bad basketball player that Brian is pre-transformation.

Durant does a respectable job at that very specific task. He's able to look bad without looking like he's trying to look bad. Durant isn't too bad at acting, either. As in the NBA, he's no Michael Jordan. In fact, KD is often weaker across from real people than Jordan was having to act across from cartoons who weren't really there. Still, while there probably isn't a Kazaam or Steel in his future, this movie shouldn't be the punchline for Durant that those movies are for Shaq.

Speaking of Shaq, he is one of seven NBA on TNT personalities who appear as themselves to comment on Durant's rough patch, material that makes appropriate use of some real Durant lowlights. Another integral part of the Time Warner television family, Conan O'Brien, contributes a monologue joke as well. Such touches, along with real game footage, lend some credibility to what of course remains a ludicrous comic fantasy.

True, Thunderstruck looks and feels like a television movie that was given theatrical release, but I found it moderately enjoyable. Heck, any movie that can make Jim Belushi amusing deserves some credit. His scenes with son Robert playing his assistant coach are some of the film's best, as the Coach regales his players with tales from his glory days as a junior college athlete. Another moment warranting acknowledgement is when Brian lobs up the old "Michael Jordan got cut in high school" story and is set straight by Alan on that tale's overstatement.

Watch clips from Thunderstruck:

Thunderstruck: Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (BD-25 & DVD-5)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($27.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Thunderstruck may have just barely received theatrical release, but its Blu-ray boasts amazing picture and sound on par with other new feature films. The vibrant, razor-sharp, spotless 1.78:1 transfer provides great detail and clarity. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is even more impressive, commanding notice with its use of music and sound effects, if pushing a tad too hard on the overloud end credits song.

Taylor Grey shows off his Kevin Durant-like basketball skills in the making-of short "KD's Klinic." Though you can't tell in the final film, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, and Marv Albert shot their scenes of TNT color commentary on a green screen set.


The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "KD's Klinic" (5:27), a short general making-of featurette that talks up the premise, the film's realistic basketball scenes, and Kevin Durant's participation.

"From Backboards to Clapboards" (6:01) reflects on Durant's acting debut, with his co-stars praising his effort and willingness to improvise.

"Coach Z" (3:22) focuses on Jim Belushi's character with reality-blurring sarcastic remarks.

Honest to video blog, young actress Tristin Mays takes us behind the scenes from her perspective. KD (Kevin Durant) gets acupuncture in this deleted scene.

"Tristin Mays' Video Blog" (3:13) gives us behind-the-scenes footage from the perspective of the film's young leading actress.

Things draw to a close with four deleted scenes (4:37).
They show us more of the Newall family, a post go-kart race scene, and KD's acupuncture session hinted at in the film and glimpsed in the extras.

The DVD here, the same one sold separately, includes "KD's Klinic", "Coach Z", and the deleted scenes.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for A Christmas Story 2: Official Sequel and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey plus a promo for UltraViolet. To those, the DVD adds ads for the video games ScribbleNauts Unlimited and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Thunderstruck's trailer is not included.

The standard menu plays the opening titles music over the poster art. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks or resume playback.

The one insert inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase provides the third and final component of this combo pack: directions and a unique redemption code for accessing the complimentary UltraViolet stream.

Brian Newall (Taylor Gray) looks up to Kevin Durant in more ways than one.


Thunderstruck doesn't break the molds in which it was so clearly made, but it manages to be a pleasant 90-minute diversion.
Something so formulaic and familiar ordinarily would not win my approval, so I think an appreciation for basketball and specifically the NBA helps one enjoy this. At the same time, there is enough wit to distinguish this from comparable low-budget, youth-oriented entertainment.

Warner's combo pack provides a dynamite feature presentation and an ordinary 22 minutes of bonus features. It's an easy set to recommend for those interested and with reasonable expectations, although it seems destined for near-future discounting.

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Related Reviews:
Basketball: Teen Wolf • Air Bud • The Mighty Macs • Glory Road • 17 Again • Semi-Pro
Sports Comedies: Angels in the Outfield • The Game Plan • The Big Green • The Mighty Ducks
Written by Eric Champnella: Mr. 3000 | Directed by John Whitesell: Deck the Halls
Brandon T. Jackson: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief | Jim Belushi: Jingle All the Way • Underdog
New: Sparkle • Men in Black 3 • The Dark Knight Rises • Butter • Catch Me If You Can • Heavyweights
Fred: The Movie • Dolphin Tale • Let It Shine • Big • Freaky Friday • Think Like a Man

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Reviewed December 6, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Warner Premiere, Karz Entertainment, Goodwin Sports, and Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.