Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer’s amusing take on the superhero genre is silly, but enjoyable
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Kevin Dunn, Melissa Leo, and Jason Bateman
Melissa McCarthy, while often elevating script material and proving her comedic chops multiple times, has had somewhat of an uneven career. For every Spy or Ghostbusters, there’s a Bridesmaids, This Is 40 or The Heat in which she is mainly used for crude, bawdy jokes generally laden with potty humour or an aggressive number of expletives. Of course, for some, that is humour epitomised, while for others it can get grating remarkably quickly. For this reviewer, who falls into the latter camp, Thunder Force, while being no Spy, is a pleasant enough, amusing take on the superhero genre.
With its premise, stars and ease-of-access, Thunder Force is undeniably going to attract a sizeable audience, and is family-friendly enough in its humour to appeal to a wide range of demographics. With a 12A rating, even younger children could find a lot to appreciate in this film, though, unfortunately, lots of the humour plays to the lowest audience member, with most of the humour being mined from the idea of Melissa McCarthy’s loser character Lydia being responsible for saving the world. It doesn’t really offer anything new or insightful in the way of parodying the superhero genre, but is mainly tied up in smelly costumes, Lydia’s newfound love of devouring raw chicken and light-hearted banter between our two leads, and former childhood best friends, Lydia and Emily.
Thunder Force introduces the audience to an alternate version of the United States, in which cosmic rays conferred upon sociopaths superhuman abilities which, as they were already sociopaths, created a deadly, destructive force termed ‘Miscreants’. Emily (Octavia Spencer) becomes obsessed with finding a way to stop Miscreants as a result of her parents’ deaths at their hands but, along the way, manages to alienate her best friend Lydia (Melissa McCarthy), who doesn’t take Emily’s noble quest quite as seriously. Years later, during a school reunion, Lydia comes to Emily’s laboratory and ends up accidentally being injected with Emily’s experiment, which grants Lydia super strength. With Emily gaining the power of invisibility, the pair prepare to take on the evil forces of Laser (Pom Klementieff), mayoral candidate The King (Bobby Canavale), as well as unexpectedly sweet The Crab (Jason Bateman).
Ultimately, the film rattles on with very little of consequence happening. There are amusing moments, but not enough to stably term is a comedy, nor does it take itself seriously enough to stand toe-to-toe with bonafide superhero films. Both McCarthy and Spencer turn in decent performances that keep the film engaging, and the plot is something that the audience have seen countless times before and feels comforting and familiar. Most of the humour is derived from the concept, instead of necessarily having funny characters – recent popular comedies such as The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek and Superstore have relied less upon the situations and more rooting humour in a character-driven place, something which is sorely lacking here, though also far trickier to achieve within a film where more is demanded of a single character and there is less “settling in” time compared to a TV series.
Inoffensive, breezily amusing and with likeable characters, Thunder Force speeds by and is a pleasant way to enjoy an afternoon. Hardly setting the world ablaze, it’s doubtful if this will sell the legitimacy of big screen comedy flicks, which have been getting fewer and fewer in recent years, but it’s decent enough for sofa viewing.
Thunder Force is streaming now on Netflix.