Review: Melissa McCarthy is better than ‘Thunder Force. ‘ It’s period for her to realize it
Have you ever lamented the slick, committee-approved, formulaic sameness of the all-conquering super-hero genre? Get ready to eat your words like they’re the slices of raw rooster, offputtingly guzzled down in a manner that really puts the gag into running gag, in “Thunder Force. ”
This “original” (i. e. not based on pre-existing material) action-comedy written plus directed by Ben Falcone, produced by and starring their wife, Melissa McCarthy, is inept enough to make a person appreciate the value of the focus team. Even the most randomly selected test audience of wines moms and Ritalin-addled tweens could brainstorm something funnier, sharper, better than this.
Answering the fun-sounding question, “Hey, why not placed Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as 40-something superheroes? ” with a resounding, feature-length “Oh, maybe this is the reason why not, ” “Thunder Force” opens in the ‘80s whenever Lydia (initially played simply by Falcone and McCarthy’s daughter, Vivian) comes to the save of bullied schoolmate Emily (Bria D. Singleton). The desultory setup is that the World has been bombarded by cosmic rays that impart superpowers to those with a tendency toward sociopathy. That creates a worldwide cabal of newly minted supervillains, one of whom eliminates Emily’s scientist parents, bequeathing to her a burning aspiration to complete their work plus develop a process for creating super heroes to fight the so-called “Miscreant” threat.
We know this is her life’s only goal, even as a child, because she mentions this every time we meet her, usually as a way of getting out of going to Van Halen shows with her way-more-chill BFF Lydia. And no one can fault her for that. But wait around, drop that second “F”: Lydia and Emily ultimately fall out over their variations and remain sundered till decades later when Lydia (now McCarthy) is a forklift driver and Emily (now Spencer) is a megarich science genius, with a 15-year-old science genius daughter, Tracy (Taylor Mosby).
On the eve of their 25-year high-school reunion (Why maybe not 10-year? Or 20-year? Or any year in between? Ah, who cares), Lydia decides to mend fences, visits Emily in her spiffy corporate HQ and wouldn’t you understand it, gets injected with the superstrength formula that Emily has finally perfected.
As Lydia becomes strong enough to fling city buses into fountains, Emily takes another whatsit she’s been working on: a series of pills that give her the ability to disappear — which, if you’re in this movie is maybe probably the most desirable superpower, short of summoning the ground to swallow you up at will. They suit up as Thunder Force to take down Chicago’s Miscreant menace led by Bobby Cannavale‘s The King — whose low-stakes evil ambition is to be elected mayor of Chicago (bwahahahaha) — and his henchpersons: electro-bolt-throwing Laser (Pom Klementieff) and the Crab (Jason Bateman), whose indifferent “superpower” is his crustacean DNA.
To be fair, Bateman is one of the film’s few bright spots, mainly because the role basically riffs on his “Arrested Development” persona, ever resigned to being the butt of life’s cosmic jokes with his genetically mutated crab-claw arms merely the latest of those. His flirtation with McCarthy’s Lydia is mildly amusing, including a fantasy dance sequence, and in addition means that Spencer gets to trade eyebrow-waggle innuendo about a friend’s sexual adventures with a person who is part seafood for — bizarrely — the second time in her career after “The Shape of Water. ”
But all joking aside … no, honestly, it feels like, perhaps in an effort to get that tricky first draft down, Falcone set all jokes aside and simply forgot to pick them up again. Where is the comedy in this comedy? Oh, there it is: in McCarthy taking a swig from a carton of bad milk! In six to eight weeks women of an age & body type not normally seen in spandex taking longer to successfully limbo into a Lambo! As McCarthy doing an impression within Urkel: “Did I do thaaat? ” Yes, you finished. Now let’s never bring it again.
It’s telling that holding actors Bateman and, on your brief moment, Kevin Dunn, who plays a patron owner with a funny nonsensical speech about a salmon, end up best from this would-be feminist, anti-ageist movie starring two babies exceptional actresses with six Academy Award nominations of which win between them. Actually, high that count to nine noms and two Oscars, if you remember to include Melissa Leo, who plays Emily’s ex-CIA head of day after day. It’s weird that Emily went to the trouble of inventing invisibility pills when supposedly she could have just put on an Ann Taylor pantsuit and stood off to 1 side if she considered necessary no one to see her.
Saddled with a humorless scold of a role, Macias spends most of the film looking like she’s avoiding touching any scenario that might break or caress off on her while McCarthy, for all her significant thespian talents, cannot convince our family that she’s not decidedly too good for this dashed-off, finger-daubed malarkey.
“Thunder Force” is at least powerful equal-opportunities bummer: It will not work as a superhero feat or a midlife reclamation dvd or a mismatched buddy humor or a family entertainment could your aim is to dissatisfy all members of the family equally. Older individuals bathed in their device’s garish Netflix glow will be bemused at just how little there will be to like about a film starring two of their generation’s the likable actresses, while youngsters and younger will be exhausted beyond belief by the paralysed gags, herniated action to tacky special effects if they have not already tuned out of some off-brand fakey vibe.
If you’re in the humor for McCarthy as an not unexpected heroine foiling a pusillanimous plot while also engaged in odd-couple hijinks (and who isn’t, ever? ) truly back-to-back the infinitely outstanding “Spy” with the genuinely charming “The Heat” and imagine “Thunder Force” never location. It’s not like you’ll think anything about it anyway, because it’s better to avoid the faintly depressing bother of watching it in the first place.
Rating: PG-13 for some action/violence, language and mild suggestive material
Running time: an hour, 47 minutes
Playing: On Netflix