|Director: Ben Falcone |
|Screenplay: Ben Falcone|
|Stars: Melissa McCarthy (Lydia Berman), Octavia Spencer (Emily Stanton), Jason Bateman (The Crab), Bobby Cannavale (The King), Pom Klementieff (Laser), Melissa Leo (Allie), Taylor Mosby (Tracy), Marcella Lowery (Grandma Norma), Melissa Ponzio (Rachel Gonzales), Ben Falcone (Kenny), Nate Hitpas (Walter)|
|MPAA Rating: PG-13|
|Year of Release: 2021|
The superhero comedy Thunder Force is the fifth collaboration between star Melissa McCarthy and her husband, actor/writer/director Ben Falcone, and it hits all the expected notes, which makes it conventional, but hardly unenjoyable. As a duo of unlikely superheroes, McCarthy plays her familiar blend of brash confidence and awkwardness in sharp contrast to Octavia Spencer’s no-nonsense intelligence, creating a familiar, but still funny action odd couple.
The movie opens with comic book style lettering informing us that a cosmic ray back in 1983 turned certain people into become super-powered villains who became known as Miscreants. Because there are no super-powered superheroes to stop them, the Miscreants run mostly unchecked, leaving regular people in constant fear. McCarthy and Spencer’s characters, Lydia Berman and Emily Stanton, have been best friends since middle school when the tough, brash Lydia (played by McCarthy’s real-life daughter Vivian Falcone) stood up to the bullies harassing the booksmart and introverted Emily, whose life is driven by her desire to complete her deceased parents’ research into making regular people into superheroes who can fight the Miscreants.
Fast-forward a few decades, during which time the former best friends have become completely estranged. Lydia is still wearing ’80s heavy metal tee-shirts and driving a forklift, while Emily has founded a multi-billion-dollar biomedical-technology company. When Emily doesn’t show up for their high school reunion, Lydia pays a visit to her company and ends up injecting herself with the superstrength formula Emily has been developing for the past 20 years. This leads to Lydia and Emily—the estranged former besties—becoming an unlikely superhero team, taking on the Miscreants with their combined strength and ability to turn invisible. Their primary antagonist is “The King” (Bobby Cannavale), a corrupt mayoral candidate who secretly works with the Miscreants, particularly a sociopathic energy blaster known as Laser (Pom Klementieff) and The Crab (Jason Bateman), so named because, well, he has crab claws for arms. While Laser is bad to the bone, The Crab is only somewhat bad (he calls himself a “half-creant”), which makes him an ideal romantic interest for Lydia (they share a love and need for raw chicken—don’t ask).
Falcone, who both wrote and directed, clearly understands McCarthy and Spencer’s appeal and how they play off each other, and Thunder Force is at its best when it highlights their opposites-attract friendship and lets them run with it. McCarthy has plenty of awkward one-liners and oddball comments (one of my favorites is when she describes Emily’s glistening office as “taters”), and Spencer is particularly gifted at deploying deadpan reactions without become a dull straight woman. They are funny together, but they are also believable as good friends who both care for each other and drive each other crazy. The plot is, unfortunately, bland and formulaic, which wouldn’t be much of a problem except that it is too often intrudes on McCarthy and Spencer’s buddy comedy antics, which is what really works.
Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick
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