Thunder Force is not the worst Ben Falcone film but that’s a very low bar to cross.
Published on April 16, 2021
Rating 1.5 /5
Given Ben Falcone’s record of filmmaking, it’s not too surprising that Thunder Force comes about as lukewarm and meandering as his other comedies. While not as troubled in its messaging or sloppy in establishing its characters, it’s the same old bag of tricks once more trotted out by the likes of Mellissa McCarthy. She stammers about yet again in misfiring ad-libbed scenes as the film tries to ape off the success of superhero movies. The result is a film that feels more like a half-thought parody than the superhero comedy it set out to be.
The premise is simple and paper-thin. McCarthy plays Lydia Berman, a down-on-her-luck woman struggling to find meaning in her life. So, you know, the same character she appears as in every Falcone film. Trying to hook back up with her best friend from her school days, she discovers that Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) is now a scientist that is developing an experiment that can grant superpowers. While visiting Emily’s place of work, Lydia’s clumsy and curious ways lead to her accidentally receiving the superhero drug, giving her incredible strength. Emily is bitter about such a development but figures she might as well take the other drug that will give her the powers of invisibility. After all, they’ve got villains to fight.
Of course, the film stresses the need for heroes since none have come about and there are plenty of superpowered villains to fight. The duo need to save Chicago from being overtaken by such villains labeled as Miscreants and uncover their scheme involving the mayor known only as William Stevens (Bobby Cannavale) or by his bland villain title of The King.
All of the predictable scenes follow. McCarthy gets her banter-heavy montage of learning the length of her powers. Octavia Spencer tries to hold up her nerdy daughter while also being a scientist and superhero, though she seems to handle her triple-threat role without much pressure. Both of them gain the respect of the public and bathe in the attention while also questioning the depths of their relationship.
Cannavale does his inept villain shtick where he kills his cohorts for fun and has extended scenes of forgetting their names for comedic effect, a bit that wears out its welcome fast. There’s even the obligatory surprise moment where it’s revealed one other character has superpowers at just the right point in the climax. The special effects are surprisingly decent though they feel a bit awkward at times watching McCarthy and Spencer being thrown about in stunt work.
The one, and I mean the only saving grace, of this film is the inclusion of Jason Bateman as Jerry aka The Crab. His superpower is that he has crab arms and he forms an inexplicable romance with Lydia. The romance doesn’t feel fully there but all of his bits are amusing since Bateman is the clear veteran of ad-libbing. Few of his meandering bits feel as though he’s trying too hard for laughs. Why would he have to be desperate? He has crab claws and looks the most ridiculous out of anyone in the cast who all seem to dress in tight leather. And he owns it, willing to go the extra mile in a scene where he and McCarthy seductively eat raw chicken.
Thunder Force is not the worst Ben Falcone film but that’s a very low bar to cross. The best that can be said about such a film is what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t present the characters with questionable morality so the audience isn’t confused about who to root for. It doesn’t boast mixed messaging in the lessons to be learned. And it doesn’t feature any gross-out or mean-spirited humor that crosses the line where the protagonist no longer feels as such. What we get instead, however, is a bland comedy of mildly amusing action that never works for any of its scenes. There’s not much romantic tension, not a lot of intrigue for the villain’s scheme, and not a whole lot of female nerd empowerment past the obligatory lines that feel less like strong themes and more like a PSA. Thunder Force is such a forgettable exercise in superhero silliness that it is sure to be misremembered as some bland action B-movie from the 1980s.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.