We should have expected the worst really. This limp, laughter-free superhero ‘comedy’ is the work of Melissa McCarthy’s old man Ben Falcone and together this dangerously high profile Hollywood power couple have already gifted us the likes of The Boss, Tammy, and Superintelligence, films that are the closet the modern world has come to recreating the experience of the medieval torture chamber. Thunder Force is, however, their cruellest, most agonising effort yet, a film so inexcusably appalling that it’s hard to imagine how and why Netflix thought it deserved a streaming release when really it should have been locked away in a lead-lined case and buried in a pit of lime, its very existence destoned to become nothing more than a grim fairy tale designed to terrify tiny children.
The conceit here, such as it is, suggests that Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer (she won an Oscar for god’s sake, what’s she doing here?) are estranged college students Lydia and Emily reunited when dumb Lydia (McCarthy) inveigles her way into a high-tech laboratory facility owned and run by Emily (Spencer). Emily is now a top boffin and she is just about, conveniently, to test a new serum she has invented that will give its subjects super powers that they can use to combat the growing threat of Miscreants, super-powered sociopaths given extraordinary abilities when the Earth was bombarded by cosmic rays from space years earlier. Lydia is accidentally imbued with super strength so Emily has no choice but to follow suit and she is gifted the power of invisibility. With absolutely no hilarious consequences, this plus-size pair squeeze themselves into heavy rubber costumes (“They stink!” screams McCarthy at any available opportunity) and battle to get in and out of a Lamborghini because… well, they’re big, geddit? This hapless, hopeless twosome team up, calling themselves Thunder Force (Thunder Thighs, geddit?) to fight local politician and Miscreant ‘The King’ (Bobby Cannavale) who is planning to become mayor of Chicago with the help of his Miscreant pals Laser (Pom Klementieff) and Crab (Jason Bateman).
In a cinema world now dominated by superheroes, there’s surely plenty of scope for a decent, clever, well-judged superhero spoof movie that could take a few loving sideswipes at the current predominant film genre. But Thunder Force isn’t that movie and it has no interest in being that movie. It exists solely to allow McCarthy to show off in the clumsiest, basest way. Roar as she gurns and pulls faces, fall overs, keeps calling someone Jodie Foster because she thinks they look like Jodie Foster, spends ten minutes in a witless slapstick cereal-eating scene and a toe-curlingly embarrassing improvised dinner date sequence with Bateman’s Crab. There is no screen chemistry between McCarthy and Spencer (who, in fairness, looks alternately bored, baffled and embarrassed throughout) and the normally-reliable Jason Bateman, who should also be hanging his head in shame, provides the one moment of vague amusement here as the Crab who enters and leaves rooms walking sideways.
Let us speak no more of this atrocity. Thunder Force is an absolute Thunder Farce - and not in any good way – and clearly has only been created to serve the minuscule talents of its leading lady. The best we can really say in its favour is that it runs for only 100 minutes (even though it’s 98 minutes too long) and doesn’t descend into the utter vulgarity and grossness of many American comedy movies. But that’s really the only kudos we’re going to give this inept, lazy, smugly self-satisfied travesty. This reviewer is now going to attempt an act of amateur self-brain-surgery in an attempt to locate those cells where the memory of this nightmare remains, and then remove them and kill them with fire.
Available now on Netflix.