In 2021, Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy put out another feature, but this time it’s under the Netflix brand, which could be considered less painful because audiences didn’t have to shell out money to buy a ticket for Thunder Force. The superhero comedy is about two childhood best friends who become an unlikely crime-fighting duo after a formula gives them superpowers. Now, before I trash Thunder Force – because I have nothing good to say this movie – I’ll say that I’m not on the Melissa McCarthy hate train like most people. I genuinely do think that she can be funny when she’s given the right material. There’s a reason that the actress broke out in Bridesmaid; McCarthy wasn’t relying on an abundance of fat and uninspired jokes to carry her through the film. She was a likable presence that nailed down her comedic timing and had a sweet side to her as well. Her heart-to-heart talk with Annie showcased that she can balance comedy and sentimentally with ease. McCarthy has also been great in Spy, The Heat, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and St. Vincent. Octavia Spencer is also in Thunder Force. I don’t think I need to explain why she’s a great actress, though if this film is your first exposure to the Academy Award winner, then I could understand why you think so otherwise.
This is the fifth film helmed under the direction of her husband, Ben Falcone, who has yet to prove his talents as a writer/director. Here’s the thing, Thunder Force actually has an interesting premise. Living in a world where sociopaths are given superpowers opens the possibilities to venture down a different avenue within the superhero genre. Thunder Force could’ve been a Deadpool-type dark comedy, mocking superhero genre tropes in bloody glee. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t even try to separate itself from the crowded genre. There’s nothing new here that you haven’t seen before unless you want to count Jason Bateman’s crab man character. One of the problems is that Thunder Force goes out its way to try so hard at being funny. The problem with being funny is that there needs to be a combination of truth and sly humor behind it. Sure, humor can be outrageous and outlandish, but the key factor is that the jokes need to be set-up properly first. Thunder Force is a collection of Melissa McCarthy skits that go on way too long. Take McCarthy and her moment of popular culture references. The actress brings up Urkel and Octavia Spencer doesn’t know who that is.
So, McCarthy goes on impersonating the iconic character. The issue with this moment is that it felt Ben Falcone had to explain his joke. We get it, Octavia Spencer is a black woman who’s never heard of Urkel. The joke itself is okay at best, but when McCarthy has to explain with her impressions what Urkel is, then the joke falls flat. Thunder Force chooses to be crass and often low-brow, but more importantly, the jokes seem better suited for a comedy show. That’s how it feels in these Melissa McCarthy/Ben Falcone movies, where the duo tries their damn hardest to be funny by throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Ultimately, the improvisation type humor doesn’t work because those moments don’t come naturally or organically because of the plot. This is a superhero comedy that had a chance to be a fun satire of the genre. This could’ve been Airplane. or Hot Fuzz. Instead, we’re left with a plot that runs aimlessly until the credits roll. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there were a few chuckle worthy moments throughout the feature. However, that’s what happens when you throw everything at the wall, eventually something will stick. Jason Bateman is a man with crab hands. It sounds silly and absurd because it is. However, logic creeps in here as that would mean that Bateman would be a supervillain, yet there’s a romantic plot between Bateman and McCarthy’s characters for the sole purpose of taking advantage of the sight of a crab man. It never works because it feels that it doesn’t have any meaningful direction that serves the little plot that Thunder Force does have. When you actually focus on the story of this Netflix exclusive then you’ll realize that it’s no different than most superhero origin films. In turn, the plot feels like a slog because of how predictable it is. Thunder Force is supposed to be a comedy yet there’s nothing funny or clever that the film does, which is a notable thing in all of Ben Falcone’s projects. In the end, Thunder Force is one of the reasons many people just don’t find Melissa McCarthy funny. It doesn’t serve any other purpose than to be a comedic show reel for the main star, but when that comedy lacks any bite, truth, or subtlety that’s usually required for the genre, then it’s not exactly a show reel I would be proud to show off.
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