Review: Thunder Force – Surprisingly Funny But Predictable

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Passable

There's not much going for Ben Falcone's latest partnership with Melissa McCarthy does have going for it helps it moderately so.

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I don’t expect much from the Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy partnership anymore and perhaps that’s one of the reasons Thunder Force was a pleasant surprise. By no means is this a good movie, but I can’t deny it’s not fun either. While following a predictable romp of the superhero subgenre, the Octavia Spencer and McCarthy partnership occasionally provides cracking jokes and funny action sequences, but everything else is subpar. Nonetheless, it produced laughs, even if they weren’t as hearty or loud as other McCarthy projects, and proved to be a respectable way to use up a Saturday evening.

Thunder Force focuses on Lydia Berman (McCarthy) and Emily Stanton (Spencer), two childhood best friends who sadly grew apart as they aged older. However, when a high school reunion offers an excuse to reconnect, Lydia reaches out in the hope of kindling old ties. Yet, in the chaos that is Lydia, she accidentally ends up taking a secret serum designed by Emily’s company that gives her super-strength. Now with superhuman capabilities, Lydia and Emily must team up to take down bad guys and save the day – you know it by now, it’s been a superhero origin story re-used countless times.

It’s easy to argue that plot predictability mars Thunder Force as a whole, but originality was never its marketing strategy. In fact, while its mediocre twists are rather predictable, what makes Thunder Force so engaging is its two main characters. Spencer and McCarthy hit it off perfectly with plentiful on-screen charisma and charm that’s sassy and hilarious. They feel like best friends and the script works well in presenting them as such, but it definitely works more in favour of McCarthy. At this point, it’s undeniable how well McCarthy handles comedy, she’s hilarious and infatuating to watch, and the plot of Thunder Force serves her directly, which are perks when being married to the writer and director. Yet, that doesn’t deny Spencer her occasional spiffy one-liners and her character acting as the main driving force of the narrative. The comedy needs a balance and Spencer serves that purpose well, even if the role feels a little bit wasted on an actress of her considerable talents.

Accompanying Spencer and McCarthy though is Jason Bateman, an actor who again acts as an injection of more comedy into the script even if Bateman seems rather unremarkable in the role. Sadly, it just feels like another big name to draw the audience in when a new or upcoming actor could have served the role just as well. There’s also Bobby Cannavale who plays yet another dull villain and at this point, it doesn’t seem like much of a testament to his skills as an actor. Basically, every character you come across fits a comedic archetype: the hero, the clown, the villain, the betrayer, the antihero, you get the point. Falcone does not try hard to tell a unique story and that’s fine because he pulls the humour off pretty well.

The first half of the film is its funniest as McCarthy is getting used to her new powers and causing chaos for most of it. She’s not the usual type to be a superhero and that’s something the story loves to mock. There’s body humour and grotesque gags that tick the conventional boxes. It doesn’t try to be smarter than it is and that works in its favour. The second half on the other hand sees a decline in the humour as it tries to juggle its less successful story elements. I knew plot was going to be predictable, but the amount of recycled cliches that the film indulges in can grow tiresome after a while. When watching Thunder Force for the first time, it’s very easy to map out everything that happens in vivid detail because it has occurred in a hundred other movies before. Although humour saves it, that doesn’t excuse it from sometimes feeling tiresome. It tries its best to make you laugh, but sacrifices pretty much everything else in the long run.

Overall, Thunder Force is passable at its best. I won’t deny it’s fun to watch, but I’m not hankering to sit down and rewatch it anytime soon. While the comedy works well, I worry it will lose that same charm on a second viewing, but I’m not disappointed I watched it because I did still manage to enjoy it. Sure it’s no masterpiece and is not an inventive comedic work, but fans of McCarthy or even Falcone will probably find enough to salvage. If you don’t expect much, perhaps you’ll even be mildly surprised like myself.

Thunder Force, directed by Ben Falcone, is available to stream now via Netflix. Watch the trailer below: 

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News Editor 20-21. A second-year English student with a passion for absolutely everything (but especially literature and drama) apart from his degree.

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