The 400-Word Review: Thunder Force
By Sean Collier
April 10, 2021
At about the halfway mark of “Thunder Force,” our unlikely-superhero protagonists head for their first showdown. It’s an incidental moment narratively, but a pivotal one for the film’s fate: A funny, slapstick moment, I thought, would probably boost the film to a passing grade.
Instead, a half-dozen instances of lukewarm, awkward humor give way to a cliched fantasy sequence, where one of our heroes imagines waltzing with the handsome villain. It’s a scene that can’t provoke a titter, let alone a genuine laugh.
The often-better performers Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer play a pair of childhood friends turned citizen superheroes. Spencer’s dedicated scientist, Emily, has developed superpower technology to combat a group of genetically mutated villains dubbed Miscreants; McCarthy’s blue-collar goofball, Lydia, gets recruited to the program accidentally.
The film is directed and written by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s frequent collaborator (and husband). Falcone did an acceptable job with the 2016 comedy “The Boss,” but his other writing/directing efforts — “Tammy,” “Life of the Party” and “Superintelligence” — have topped out at middling and bottomed at unwatchable.
He’s clearly pleasant to work with, as evidenced by the talent regularly attracted to his projects; “Thunder Force” features Jason Bateman, Melissa Leo, Bobby Cannavale and Pom Klementieff. (Bateman and McCarthy reunite, having played off one another in the superior “Identity Thief,” a movie “Thunder Force” unsuccessfully emulates.) Filmmaking takes more, however, than a good working environment.
“Thunder Force” is billed as a superhero comedy, but plenty of straight superhero movies are far funnier. The jokes in the script can’t compete with the humor in any given episode of Marvel’s recent series, and the wit in the action sequence isn’t as funny as the fights in the hyper-violent “Nobody” — alarming, considering “Thunder Force” is made by an allegedly comic filmmaker. Whatever its limited merits, “Thunder Force” doesn’t come close to meeting its own goals.
Before the fumbled action sequence, there’s a nice scene where Lydia and Emily drive to the crime scene, debating whether or not the hits of Glenn Frey constitute appropriate pump-up music. It’s funny and charming — and the kind of moment we don’t always see in a superhero movie. More of this would’ve been great. Unfortunately, Falcone is unable to recognize what works and what doesn’t, stumbling through another film with no perspective or plan. He’s had enough chances; he just doesn’t know how to make a movie.
My Rating: 3/10
“Thunder Force” is streaming on Netflix.