- Emma Simmonds
- 9 April 2021
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone give us their own spin on super-heroics, co-starring Octavia Spencer
Two middle-aged, plus-sized female superheroes are the refreshing focus of this daffy but affable (daffable?) comedy adventure, which marks the fifth collaboration between husband-and-wife filmmakers Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy (Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party). It takes the sci-fi antics of their last effort, 2020's Superintelligence, up a notch with its superpowered storyline, but doesn't bring enough energy or imagination to the table to truly make things fly.
McCarthy plays Chicago-based forklift operator Lydia, who is long estranged from her pioneering scientist bestie, Emily (Octavia Spencer), who she fell out with as a teen. Emily's parents were killed by souped-up villains known as 'miscreants' many years ago, and she has made it her life's work to give the good guys special abilities too. When the hapless Lydia is imbued with super strength whilst nosing around Emily's lab, Emily reluctantly takes her on as a crime-fighting partner. Soon they're pitched against mayoral candidate 'The King' (Bobby Cannavale), who is in league with the ultra-wicked Laser (Pom Klementieff) and much less dastardly foe The Crab (Jason Bateman).
The plot feels lazily assembled and hastily unpacked and it's unashamedly in the comfort zone of most of the talent involved. Yet Thunder Force boasts plenty of rambling and irreverent comedy for McCarthy to sink her teeth into (with less emphasis on physical humiliations than before) and she's such a pro that she gives a huge amount of lift to the sometimes-mediocre material, working her socks off to squeeze out the laughs. If her and Spencer make an instantly endearing double-act, Spencer has a lot less to play with here, while Melissa Leo is totally wasted as an ex-CIA associate.
It seems a shame not to subvert the superhero film formula beyond the choice of leads, and the action doesn't exactly set the screen alight. However, the taboo romance between Bateman and McCarthy's characters generates some memorable and entertainingly excruciating moments, with the two sparking particularly well off one another, and Cannavale gives his villain more than enough oomph. Thunder Force is unlikely to create any converts to the McCarthy-Falcone brand (which, admittedly, goes down better with audiences than critics), though fans will undoubtedly find themselves sated. Dubbing it super might be a bit strong but the cast ensure that it's a solidly enjoyable effort.
Available to watch on Netflix now.