CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Jason Bateman, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Melissa Leo, Kevin Dunn, Melissa Ponzio, Ben Falcone, Tyrel Jackson Williams
RUNNING TIME: 105 mins
BASICALLY…: In a world dominated by super-villains, two estranged friends (McCarthy and Spencer) step up to become the world’s first superhero duo…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
The nicest thing I’ll say about Thunder Force, the (regrettably) fifth creative collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and her writer-director husband Ben Falcone, is that because it’s debuting exclusively on Netflix, you are not obligated to sit patiently through the entire thing like you would in a cinema. There were multiple times during this utter dead-zone of a comedy where I was on my phone checking my Facebook updates and even playing a mini-golf game while it was playing on the TV, because there was absolutely nothing worth caring about or even drawing any kind of attention to on the screen.
I seriously don’t understand why McCarthy and Falcone keep making movies together, because each and every time these otherwise talented comedic performers set out to make their own material, it’s almost always completely void of any humour, charm or even soul (even last year’s Superintelligence, which is the closest their collaborations have come to actually being not wholly terrible, still lacked a considerable amount of laughs to pass as a sub-par comedy). You’d think that after previous failed outings like Tammy, The Boss and Life of the Party, they would have gotten the hint that maybe they should leave the comedy to people who actually know how to utilise these actors in the best ways possible, but now with Thunder Force they’re not only continuing down this very depressing creative path that puts neither of them in the best light, but they’re taking down with them a concept that, in theory, could actually work yet is executed with all the flimsiness and joylessness of a plate of raw chicken (which is unfortunately more apt than you may think).
Set in a world where superpowered individuals exist, but for some reason every single one of them turns out to use their powers for evil (and are thus known as “Miscreants”), McCarthy plays Lydia, a lowly Chicago forklift driver who comes into contact with her estranged childhood friend Emily (Octavia Spencer), a scientist who has dedicated her life to finding a way to produce the world’s first superhero. Naturally, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie (God forbid), Lydia accidentally gets herself injected with a serum which gives her superhuman strength, and along with Emily – who obtains the power of invisibility – they form the crime-fighting team Thunder Force and go up against a number of evil Miscreants, among them an energy-producing psycho named Laser (Pom Klementieff) and a criminal henchman known as The Crab, who’s Jason Bateman wearing the fakest-looking crab arms you’ve ever seen in a movie of this budget.
While only Falcone is credited as both writer and director on this movie, you can still tell that both he and McCarthy are the primary creative force here because it has the exact same kind of DOA humour as their previous movies, where characters will ramble on for what feels like an eternity without ever settling on a particular punchline, or even ruining what might have been funny one-liner by extending it beyond its capabilities. This is the kind of movie where McCarthy passingly refers to Spencer’s teenage daughter looking like Steve Urkel from Family Matters, and then everything will just stop dead in its tracks so that McCarthy can do a piercingly unfunny impression of the sitcom character. Other characters will also swap tiresome back-and-forth tirades about the various different forms of the name Andrew, and even poor Jason Bateman – making the absolute most out of a one-joke side character – gets caught up in a dinner scene with McCarthy which seems to go on forever. All of these asides barely have anything to do with the main plot, to a point where the whole superhero aspect feels like a complete afterthought, and most crucially are never, ever funny; there was not a single laugh I got out of this movie, even as it desperately tries to elicit some kind of response to the sight of Melissa McCarthy stuffing entire plates of raw chicken into her mouth, which only made me feel even more sorry for her because she is a great actress and a very funny comedic performer who, like everyone else from Octavia Spencer to fellow Oscar-winner Melissa Leo (who looks just as annoyed as the viewer is all throughout her tiny supporting role), is completely let down by this painfully unfunny material.
Beyond its terrible attempts at humour, which I shouldn’t be so surprised by at this point in McCarthy and Falcone’s combined filmography, this is a very cynical movie designed solely to capitalise on the current dominance of superhero movies, and doesn’t even establish its own universe in ways that make any sense. If this is a world where there’s only ever been supervillains, and pretty powerful ones from the looks of it, how come the entire city of Chicago isn’t a complete hell-hole by now? If this movie really took its concept to heart, everything would look like something out of Escape from New York with all of these superpowered criminals roaming about freely, but instead it just looks like the same, clean-cut city where every now and then there’s a little bit of damage to public property. That also makes it hard to believe that nobody has previously thought to gain powers and become a superhero in this crime-infested world before McCarthy and Spencer come along, because the villains’ antics constantly make the news enough times to make you think that somebody out there would have at least made an effort to create superpowers and fully-fledged heroes by this point.
I wouldn’t be so quick to point out so many of these plot-holes if the movie had any other kind of entertainment factor which could distract me from making such observations, but Thunder Force really is devoid of such enjoyment that there is no other choice but to remark on its inconsistencies, because there’s absolutely nothing else worthy about it to comment on. It is simply another reminder that Melissa McCarthy simply needs to stop making movies with her husband, since they drag the both of them down to unfathomable depths that make it very difficult for them to surface from.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Thunder Force is a mind-numbingly awful superhero comedy which submits talented comedic performers like Melissa McCarthy to grossly unfunny humour and a nonsensical script that cynically tries to mine off of the superhero dominance of cinema. For the love of God, Melissa, please stop making movies with your husband.