Thunder Force Review

Thunder Force Review
2 10

PLOT: After years of Earth being plagued with supervillains, a scientist comes up with a formula to engineer superheroes, leading to two estranged best friends coming together to try and save the world. 

REVIEW:  After teaming together for movies like Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party and Superintelligence, you’d think that, finally, the husband-wife filmmaking duo Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone would want to attempt a comedy that was more than simply sticking the former in a one-joke scenario that was funny for maybe a few minutes in a pitch meeting. Not only is their latest, THUNDER FORCE, proof they may never deviate from that formula, but the notion that this movie’s concept was seen as funny to anyone beyond a few seconds requires more suspension of disbelief than any Avengers movie.

No doubt greenlit by Netflix solely because the name “Melissa McCarthy” and the word “superhero” were tossed out during the pitch, Thunder Force takes place in a world where radioactive waves struck the Earth, causing certain people – namely, people who already have a predisposition to have “sociopathic tendencies" – to gain powers. Young Emily’s parents were killed by one of these new Miscreants (yes, it sounds worse the more it’s used), and afterward befriends Lydia at school, and the two become inseparable. But soon they have a falling out purely because Lydia is lazy and irresponsible and Emily is studious and determined, and despite a seemingly unshakeable bond, completely lose touch. For some reason still torn up about it 25-30 years later, Lydia (McCarthy), now an aimless dock worker, seeks to meet up with Emily (Octavia Spencer), now a renowned scientist working on a way to combat Miscreants.

Via her general stupidity and some lazy direction from Falcone, Lydia finds herself accidentally strapped in a chair in a very secret lab casually attached to Emily's office, and is injected with a serum that gives her super strength, which Emily was aiming to use on herself in tandem with an invisibility serum. But now Lydia is in the mix, and instead of being too upset about it and thus further causing strife between the two, Emily just sort of goes with it. While this means the movie technically goes on for about another hour and 20 minutes, it undeniably comes to a grinding halt nonetheless. From here on out, writer-director Falcone seems to lose all sight of what story he’s telling, shifting away from a tale of two estranged friends putting aside differences to come together and leaning into a meandering series of half-baked bits featuring McCarthy training to be a hero. You can see the gags coming a mile away, like McCarthy trying to jump over stuff, only to fall over; McCarthy taking boxing lessons, only to hit someone too hard; McCarthy throwing something, only for it to go too far and hit something it shouldn’t have it.

What’s worse than seeing McCarthy – someone who has proven time and time again to be an incredible actress, earning two Oscar noms for her comedic and dramatic work – sleepwalk through these gags, is seeing her supposed partner in this, Spencer, fall by the wayside. Not only is her character not really explored – despite doing the opening narration and having the “superhero arc” – but she doesn’t even get in on the jokes. She simply seems there to respond to McCarthy’s foibles, and maybe throw out a chuckle-worthy response. This is perhaps because Emily was always the more serious of the two, but that simply seems like one-dimensional character detail designed to explain away why she's not getting in on the fun as much as her co-star. Spencer has also proven to be hilarious in past work, so to see her so unused both as a character and an actress is too much to bear. Not only is Falcone not interested in exploring either of the characters’ flaws or divide between each other, in turn building logical character arcs, but he really doesn’t care to do much that doesn’t involve McCarthy being center stage.

As the story progresses, the lack of character depth means there’s really not much of a story at all, and if it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a story outside of the duo it's because, for the longest time, there also isn’t much of a villain. Despite a world-changing dose of radioactivity, with Miscreants supposedly running amok, Chicago seems…fine? Aside from news footage with anchors talking about destruction at the hands of uber-Miscreant Laser (Pom Klementieff), and an admittedly funny-looking villain, The Crab (Jason Bateman), there’s really not much for threats around. When things do get going involving a sadistic politician/Miscreant called “The King” (Bobby Cannavale) the plot still becomes about as predictable and stale as a Saturday morning cartoon, with still little value coming from the lead characters as they have to rise up to the challenge.

If there is any saving grace it all, it comes from some supporting players. Young Taylor Mosby is a breath of fresh air as Emily’s wildly intelligent daughter Tracy, with Melissa Leo’s Allie, given a constant I’m-so-done-with-everyone’s-shit demeanor, being the closest thing to relatable in the whole movie. Picking up slack in the comedy chemistry department where the starring duo fails is Bateman and McCarthy coming together. The romance between Lydia and The Crab is when things get welcomely silly, and even when she’s not around, Bateman does what he can to make his scenes work. The same goes for Cannavale and Klementieff, who are clearly here to just have some fun and chew some scenery.

By the end, with little in the way of action or character development, Lydia and Emily have a forced “separation” moment, only to far-too-easily come back together and head into the finale, whatever emotional and character stakes of which are entirely mute and unearned. The one-joke scenarios in past movies of the McCarthy/Falcone canon feature “McCarthy…but trailer trash” (Tammy), “McCarthy…but obscenely rich” (The Boss), and this time around, it’s “McCarthy…but with superpowers.” And some involved with those movies may argue that, in the end, we learn deep down there’s more to her characters than that the basics around their conception. But as is painfully the case in Thunder Force, whatever makes McCarthy’s Lydia more than the central figure in awkward exchanges and gross-out gags is non-existent.

I don’t doubt for a second that McCarthy and Falcone love working together and that everyone involved had a great time making Thunder Force. Like some of Adam Sandler’s recent comedies, they’re chances for him to get together with his buds, have a fun time, and then put that fun time on screen. But just because you’re having a good time doesn’t mean you’re making a good movie and that whatever fun you’re having is making it on screen. In the case of Thunder Force, the movie is painfully un-fun, with not enough being funny to make it a comedy, not enough exciting to make it a superhero film, and not enough endearing qualites to make it a story about friendship or family.  Whatever ideas the team of McCarthy and Falcone had in thinking this would make for a good comedy are buried underneath a pile of rubble, and this time, they brought Spencer down with them. 

Source: JoBlo.com

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