Thunder Force is the latest superhero flick to hit streaming giant Netflix, marking the fifth project between Melissa McCarthy and regular collaborator/husband Ben Falcone. Starring longtime real-life friends McCarthy and Octavia Spencer, the comedy features an intriguing setup, as the duo suit up as two of the first mature female super-powered heroes. However despite the refreshing premise, Thunder Force unfortunately feels more like a half-hearted attempt at Adam Sandler does The Tick than an actual empowering superhero outing.
Written and directed by Ben Falcone, Thunder Force centres on childhood friends, rocker Lydia (McCarthy) and genius Emily (Spencer). Following the tragic death of her parents at the hands of ‘miscreants’, (villainous people who develop mutant superpowers thanks to cosmic rays), Emily devotes her life to solving her parent’s formula. Fast forward to their 25-year high-school reunion and the mega-rich genius has finally developed two serums; one for super strength and the other for invisibility. However Lydia stumbles into Emily’s swanky HQ looking to mend bridges, but accidentally takes the super strength serum – leaving Emily with the power of invisibility. The two begrudgingly team up as crime-fighting superhero duo ‘Thunder Force’ to protect the city which is terrorised by miscreants.
As a big fan of both McCarthy and Spencer, I was really looking forward to seeing them team up in an inclusive female fronted superhero comedy flick, featuring an age and body positivity which is rare of the genre. However, apart from a few laughs courtesy of a surreal dance number and the duo’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ rendition, I’m afraid to say I was really disappointed by how unfunny this film was. The narrative is also predictable, quickly leaning into typical gross out comedy cliches, with a number of grim recurring jokes about raw chicken and a henchmen’s injuries. I think the main issue here is the tone; it feels like Falcone’s attempting to steer it towards family-friendly entertainment, but the crass gags may be too much for the younger audience, along with the baffling 1h 46min runtime.
With five Academy Award nominations and one win between the exceptional duo, it’s such a shame to see their talents wasted. This could easily have been an inspiring and empowering buddy comedy like The Heat or Spy for example, but instead McCarthy channels the frenetic and brazen energy of Tammy while Spencer’s left with a rather unengaged and humourless script. It’s supporting actor Jason Batemen who steals most scenes as “The Crab”, a crook who’s half-man and half-crab following a run in with a radioactive crab who bit his testicles. His pincer props are absolutely ridiculous, along with his Zoidberg-esque movements, but his chemistry with McCarthy is actually quite amusing.
Meanwhile Ant-Man‘s Bobby Cannavale and Guardian of the Galaxy‘s Pom Klementieff are also wasted as one-dimensional villains, with both labouring through predictable lines and terribly handled ambitions. Cannavale’s grand evil plan is attempting to become the elected mayor of Chicago in a Godfather-esque ploy for control, while Klementieff’s Laser really is just a henchman with seemingly no other desires than killing.
While Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman provide at least some laughs, I really did expect more from Thunder Force. It’s such a shame, particularly with such a talented female duo, as this could have really set itself apart from the bloated genre. Plus, I still haven’t managed to get ‘Kiss From A Rose’ out of my head since!