You know what to expect from a McCarthy and Falcone collaboration, and Thunder Force certainly delivers that. Whether you want it is another matter.
I’ve long held the belief that the collaborative output of Melissa McCarthy and her director husband Ben Falcone is some kind of elaborate divorce strategy, since Tammy, The Boss, and Superintelligence are not the kind of vehicles you’d typically want your wife to star in. Then again, what do I know? Obviously not very much, since they continue to make them, with Thunder Force, on Netflix, being the latest. This one’s about a cosmic ray hitting Earth and sparking a genetic mutation in sociopaths, leaving behind supervillains dubbed “miscreants” who are wreaking havoc on society. Enter, then, Melissa McCarthy as Lydia, and blessedly Octavia Spencer as her best friend Emily, a geneticist orphaned by said miscreants who gives them both superpowers to clean up the city of Chicago.
You know what to expect from a McCarthy/Falcone “comedy”, which includes putting that word in quotes. McCarthy, a genuinely gifted comic performer, is prompted to grab the lowest-hanging fruit available, while the movie around her, when it can be bothered to stop making fun of her, churns through the machinery of a rote plot that exists mainly as an excuse for juvenile humor and broad slapstick.
Pairing McCarthy up with anyone is usually a good way of stopping Falcone from roasting her too specifically, and Spencer is a good choice, though obviously better than the material. The friendly dynamic at the core of Thunder Force is good for a beat or two, while its most surreal diversions – some involving big-name actors – might earn a chuckle. But that’s at best. Mostly the whole thing’s interminable, with gag after gag about the usual things being played up to the nines by McCarthy, and an uninspired family-friendly sci-fi plot trying to cash in on the superhero zeitgeist to utterly uninteresting effect.
I like Melissa McCarthy, by the way, I just don’t think she should work with her husband, which is a reasonable thing to ask. I like buddy vehicles, too, but usually when the buddies have an actual sense of character and interiority instead of a handful of quirks. And I, of course, like superheroes and comedy, neither of which are easy to find in Thunder Force. Maybe the world isn’t always worth saving.