Going into THUNDER FORCE, I was caught between two universal truths. On one hand, I love superhero movies. On the other hand, I really don’t like Melissa McCarthy. She seems like a nice person in real life, but I just don’t like her comedic style, which relies heavily on extreme awkwardness and cringe. I recognize many people think she is hilarious but the schtick has gotten old for me. So, what happens when you combine a genre I adore with an actress I don’t? Luckily, thanks to the supporting cast, you get a perfectly serviceable superhero story.
As was the case in prior McCarthy vehicles, THE BOSS, TAMMY, and LIFE OF THE PARTY, the THUNDER FORCE script was written and directed by husband Ben Falcone. While it’s great to see a husband and wife team collaborate, I’ve felt this has resulted in McCarthy’s weakest work (LIFE OF THE PARTY is in my bottom five movies of all time). Thankfully, THUNDER FORCE is a vast improvement.
The movie quickly establishes the ground rules with a familiar comic book style introduction to a world where the only people who are gifted with superpowers happen to have deviant personalities, called Miscreants. We are then introduced to two child versions of our heroes. The child actors nail the performances, believably playing younger versions of the stars.
Pairing McCarthy with Octavia Spencer (HIDDEN FIGURES, THE HELP) as two childhood friends who become superheroes is an inspired choice. The two actors have real chemistry. While McCarthy still dishes plenty of awkward monologues that run on too long, Spencer (while underused) seems to ground McCarthy’s performance just enough to make it funny and not annoying. Jason Bateman is probably the best part of the movie, playing a strange Miscreant. He gives a funny, sort of bizarre performance that dances on the line of being over the top but stays on the right side. The other supporting characters played by Bobby Cannavale and Pom Klementieff (Mantis from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2) fall into full scene chewing mode. Their over the top style fits the tone of the movie, but it comes on a bit strong at times. Cannavale’s character in particular isn’t really believable, but he has some of the best lines in the movie.
The movie relies on some common movie tropes, such as the best friends growing apart plot device. While the story is fun, there are at least two overly telegraphed plot twists and an ending decision that really makes no sense. It has some decent special effects for a superhero comedy movie on a streaming service, but the movie is more about the characters than the superhero stuff. It wouldn’t be a McCarthy movie without some cringey moments that shoot for comedy but really just make you feel uncomfortable.
It’s a little unclear who the target audience is. It has a nice message and lacks tons of blood, but it has some adult themes and cursing and relies heavily on 80s references, likely ruling it out for younger audiences. If you like Melissa McCarthy (or Jason Bateman), you will probably love THUNDER FORCE. If there is anyone else out there that doesn’t care for her brand of comedy, the supporting cast and superhero theme makes it worth a watch. Would I recommend subscribing to Netflix just to see it? No. But if you have it, there are worse ways to spend an evening. Oh, and I’ll never look at chicken the same way again.
Do you plan to see the movie? Have you already? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!
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