Sports movies hardly have a prodigious pedigree. There are some good ones, to be sure. The Natural, Rocky, Raging Bull, and Caddyshack all come to mind, and personally, I’ll admit to having always had a soft spot for Hoosiers. Sometimes I still quote it under my breath when trying to encourage myself to be less awful at basketball. (“Don’t get caught watching the paint dry,” I tell myself. Then, inevitably, I am caught watching the paint dry.) But sports movies have also delivered a lot of crap. There’s the Air Bud franchise, about one golden retriever’s amazing career as a professional basketball, football, soccer, baseball, and volleyball player. The one sequel they didn’t shoot, alas, was Air Bud Gets Tested for Performing Enhancing Drugs. Then there’s The Rookie, about a child who plays baseball; Ed, about a monkey who plays baseball; and Angels in the Outfield about angels who play baseball. Seems like sort of a trivial way for angels to spend their time, but I’m no theologian. All these movies are, of course, very, very bad. But this Friday, a little movie called Thunderstruck may put them all to shame.
It took me three trailer viewings and an hour of Thunderstruck research to figure out if this movie was actually real — and even now, I’m not convinced. It’s coming out in theaters, that much I know, but I’m still not certain it isn’t an elaborate piece of performance art. Is it a sports movie, or a brilliantly disguised mockery of everything lame one might find in a sports movie? If I somehow made it through its 90-minute running time, would I discover it was actually directed by Christopher Guest? I’m not sure. Perhaps if we go through the trailer scene by scene – or as much as our brain can tolerate – we can decide if Thunderstruck is a parody, or just the worst sports movie ever made.
Scene #1: A Feeble Youngster plays basketball so badly that he dribbles off an air conditioner, then shoots the ball off the bottom of the backboard twice. I am very bad at basketball and have never done those things, which suggests parody. However, Feeble Youngster then takes one final dribble and bounces the ball OFF HIS OWN BALLS! Sure that’s almost impossible to do, but sometimes for the great jokes you have to be willing to stretch reality. Somewhere Bob Saget smiles and nods approval.
Verdict: Parody or Just Really Bad?: Just Really Bad. Ball on ball violence is such a cliche that in order to parody it you have to really go overboard. Like have the ball bounce back up and hit him in the crotch again, then his face, then his crotch a third time. Or the scene would have to involve Kevin James.
Scene #2: Feeble Youngster takes a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder game that not only misses, but hits the mascot in the head. Each time I watch this, I am newly stunned that the ball doesn’t hit the mascot in his weird mascot groin.
Verdict: Parody. I have watched this scene — heaven help me — 10 times, and no human being alive would be bad enough to shoot a ball anywhere near where the mascot is standing. That would be like a pilot trying to land in New York and ending up in New Mexico. This must be a joke within a joke. I hope
Scene #3: Feeble Youngster and Entirely Uncharismatic NBA Star Kevin Durant trade abilities after touching a basketball at the same time. Immediately historians are forced to wonder: what if Hitler and FDR had ever held a basketball between them, would we all now be speaking German?
Verdict: Just really bad. How do we know that Durant and Feeble Youngster have made a cosmic connection? Because blue electricity shoots across the ball. Mystical blue electricity is a tell tale the sign of Just Really Bad. For evidence, consult the movie Weird Science.
Scene #4: Jim Belushi is in the movie.
Verdict: Hmm. Could go either way. Gonna need more info.
Scene #5: After seeing Youngster pull off an incredible dunk, Jim Belushi does a side-to-side double take, then an up-and-down triple take. This is the first known instance of a quintuple take, and will henceforth be known as “The Belushi.”
Verdict: Parody. That scene is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Jim Belushi has to be capable of better than that if he’s actually trying. I think.
Scene #6: While watching Feeble Youngster play incredibly well, Kevin Durant’s agent figures out that the boy stole Durant’s basketball ability. Let me say that again, he FIGURES OUT THAT THE BOY STOLE DURANT’S BASKETBALL ABILITY.
Verdict: Gosh. This is a tough one. The idea that a screenwriter ever seriously wrote the sentence “I think I know where your game has gone. Somebody took it” is earth-shattering in its unbelievability. That suggests parody. But when I look over the extent of these infractions, the ball off the crotch, the mystical basketball that transfers athletic skills, The Belushi… I have to think that Thunderstruck is Just Very Bad. It’s just a very bad movie. And if it’s a parody, it’s not actually funny, so it’s just a very bad parody.
Could Thunderstruck be the worst sports movie ever? There’s only one way to find out. So…who wants me to get them a ticket?