Melissa, honey… why must you keep making this so difficult?
Melissa McCarthy, like Adam Sandler, is someone I’ve been defending for years. I think she’s great, and truly deserved her Oscar nominations for Bridesmaids and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (she would’ve been my personal vote that year). The thing is, she is so funny, and yet like Adam Sandler, she chooses these flat projects that fail to convert non-believers. You just have to see a trailer for one of these and you’ll be thinking, “Yeah… no.” She is so talented, and funny, and a terrific actress, but the majority of her films are beneath her. Alas, she stars in another one: Netflix’s Thunder Force.
Some directors know how to use her well. With the exception of Ghostbusters (2016), Paul Feig is one of them. She has been acting for over a decade, but she became a star instantly with Feig’s Bridesmaids, and with good reason: she was the best part of a movie that was already hilarious. The Heat was decent, but it’s Feig’s Spy that she is perhaps put to the best use, comedically that is. Ben Falcone is a filmmaker who has yet to put her to good use, which is interesting because they’re married. I love them as a couple, but the majority of their collaborations (Tammy, The Boss, Superintelligence) fail to properly take liftoff. The only one that is kind of enjoyable is Life of the Party, and now we have, ugh, Thunder Force.
The problem with Thunder Force is simple: it isn’t funny. It’s a shame too, because there is a lot of talent involved here. McCarthy, Oscar winners Octavia Spencer and Melissa Leo, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Bateman. A lot of talent, but with nowhere to go. If I had to guess, and no disrespect to them because I think they’re a great couple, but these people were probably doing them a favor. It has a few lines that are kind of funny (a reference to Nell for example) but honestly, as I sit here typing, I fail to even remember what the movie was even really about. Yet what I do remember is the forced PG-13-ness of it. Guys, look, if you’re going to put Melissa McCarthy in your movie, you have to go the R-rated route. Hearing her utter lines like, “Let’s go kick some bad guy butt!” are enough to make you squirm.
So yeah, what is this about? I’ll turn to my trusty friend IMDb for the answer. McCarthy and Spencer, two wonderful character actresses who have been friends for years, play two women who were childhood friends. The film is set in a world where supervillains are all the rage. Spencer’s Emily was into science as a kid, and when the two reunite, Emily has made a serum that can give them both superpowers. So the two join forces to take down said supervillains, which include The Crab (Bateman) who has crab arms, and his boss, The King (Cannavale), who is a political figure.
So there’s really not much else to say about this film because its existence is so unnecessary. One could assume that laughs could be mined from this material… but they barely ever are. The lack of laughter in Thunder Force is the film’s biggest flaw, but seeing as this is a comedy, that’s a pretty big friggin flaw. It’s not that the actors aren’t trying, but it’s that the material doesn’t ever really take liftoff. McCarthy and Spencer are two treasures, but not here. Thunder Force is yet another Melissa McCarthy vehicle that the next one will make us forget. I always root for her, and I’ll never give up the fight. But she’s on her own this time.