Normally, I’d expect a comedy like “Thunder Force” to end up in the bargain bin full of $2 movies at Wal-Mart.
The only reason that this Melissa McCarthy vehicle won’t end up with that fate is because it’s streaming exclusively on Netflix.
The comedy veteran actress is back with another comedy directed by her husband Ben Falcone. They’ve now made five movies together, all pretty much bashed by professional film critics. In 2020, they collaborated on a comedy called “Superintelligence” that premiered exclusively on HBOMax. But their three movies they made together that had theatrical runs actually made quite a bit of money, despite their disdain from movie reviewers. “Tammy” made quite a few “worst of” lists in 2014 but it made $100 million on a $20 million budget. Margins like that have kept Ben Falcone working as a director.
And it doesn’t hurt that he’s married to a two-time Oscar nominee in McCarthy. Despite the majority of her leading roles being dubbed as “rotten” by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, McCarthy’s movies (for the most part) make money.
McCarthy has been at her funniest when she’s in films directed by Paul Feig, such as “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” “Spy” and “Ghostbusters,” all of which are “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.
With Falcone? Not so much.
But with “Thunder Force,” I actually think it’s her funniest collaboration with her husband. That’s not saying much though.
Basically, the premise of this film is: “What if two plus-sized middle aged women became superheroes?” The idea came from the fact that McCarthy and Falcone have been longtime friends with Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. They’ve known each other back when Spencer was waiting tables and McCarthy was doing improv.
It’s actually refreshing to see two women like McCarthy and Spencer as the leads for a movie like this. Both worked in Hollywood for many years, taking small bit roles before their big breaks. They aren’t the kinds of actresses that usually earn such stardom and they both seem quite likable.
And it’s refreshing because we have larger women who don’t fit into the usual ideas of what a female superhero should look like and the movie itself isn’t just a bunch of fat jokes. In a way, it’s a body-positive kind of movie.
The story itself isn’t anything to rave about. The world has been ravaged by genetic mutations that create superpowers, but only in individuals with sociopathic tendencies. They’ve been termed “miscreants” and it’s a world with all villains but no heroes.
Lydia (McCarthy) and Emily (Spencer) are friends who have been estranged but reunite decades later. Emily was the smart one in school who has been determined to create a way for ordinary, good-hearted people to develop superpowers after her parents are killed by the miscreants. She brushes off Lydia, the loud and crazy one, because she thinks she’s holding her back from her life’s purpose.
Lydia surprises Emily at her lab one night and accidentally gets injected the super-serum that is finally complete, giving Lydia super strength. Quickly moving on from any anger and frustration, Emily trains Lydia and then eventually gives herself the power of invisibility. They team up to fight super powered bad guys in Chicago. Yada, yada, yada.
Pretty standard stuff. It’s definitely better than superhero comedies like “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” “Blank Man” or “Meteor Man” but not as zany or lovable as “Mystery Men,” “Super” or “Shazam!”
The problem with most comedies about superheroes is that the studios feel the need to fill it with action sequences and special effects take away time for funny jokes. The action sequences aren’t as good as a regular superhero movie and the jokes aren’t as good as any usual comedy. Same can be said for action comedies like “Date Night” or “The Lovebirds.”
The special effects in “Thunder Force” are not amazing and I gained nothing from watching the action sequences.
There are a few moments that are worth a few laughs in “Thunder Force.” Jason Bateman steals every scene he’s in while playing The Crab, a hilariously bad villain with giant crab claws for hands. It’s such a stupid role that after they introduced him I was sure that he’d only be in it for five minute. But he kept showing up! I have to admit that I became more interested when he was on screen. Yes, it’s dumb. But sometimes you need that to coax a few laughs out of an otherwise mediocre comedy.
McCarthy is relegated to playing the slob character again, a variation on a role she’s played too many times before. It just doesn’t pack the same punch anymore.
Spencer is in most of the movie as the co-lead, but basically plays the serious one and doesn’t get anything funny or challenging to do. She’s either reacting to something that McCarthy does or she’s explaining something science-y. Many of her lines are just explaining the plot. She’s given a daughter to try to give her character some depth but it feels rather tacked on.
Bobby Cannavale, who usually impresses in everything he does, isn’t that great as the villain. He’s cartoonish, but not cartoonish enough, if that makes sense. He would have been better off if he overacted and went overboard. Apparently he’s married to Rose Byrne, who’d been in a few comedies with McCarthy and they’re friends, so that explains why he agreed to be in this.
In the end, if you can’t stand Melissa McCarthy, this movie won’t convert you into a follower. If you like her work, you know what to expect and will probably be mildly amused. Very mildly.
“Thunder Force” isn’t something I’d venture to a movie theater to see but if you’re bored and need something to watch, it’ll be good distraction in the background as you fold laundry. You might even laugh once or twice like I did. But I’ll probably forget about this movie all together rather quickly.