Melissa McCarthy has made five movies with her husband. And so far, only one has been watchable. Only the last two have made me physically angry, however, and it’s because we’ve had enough of this. Every time I see another one of these movies is coming, I think maybe this will finally be the time this works. Maybe even if reviews are awful, I’ll find something to enjoy in it. Well, I’m done, I cannot sit through another Ben Falcone movie. Falcone belongs in director jail for life, and he should never make another film again. Because if audiences have been watching Falcone go to film school over these past five movies, it’s undoubtedly clear he isn’t learning what’s being taught. And this one gets a big ol’ F.
Lydia (McCarthy) and Emily (Spencer) are estranged childhood friends. Emily’s the daughter of scientists who discovered a way to give ordinary people superhero abilities. Her parents died when she was young, and she has made it her life’s goal to finish their work. Lydia is the wacky loser who never did anything with her life. One day, they reunite and Emily accidentally is injected with a serum that will give her superhero powers. So, the two old friends reunite as Thunder Force – a superhero team hoping to put an end to the ‘Miscreants’ – the criminals who have misused these powers to wreak havoc all over Chicago.
Superintelligence was on my worst films of the year list last year – McCarthy and Falcone’s fourth film together that was released quietly on HBO Max after losing its theatrical release. Many films in 2020 lost their theatrical releases due to the pandemic, but Falcone allegedly asked Warner Bros. to release this film on their streaming service instead, because it’s ‘a better fit for streaming.’ You heard that right, folks, a filmmaker asked a studio not to release his film in theaters because even he knew it was just that bad.
Enter Falcone and McCarthy’s Netflix deal – the couple has signed a deal that will allow them to produce content with Netflix for the next several years, Thunder Force being the introductory project. Netflix somehow thought it was a good idea to get into business with the visionary filmmakers behind Tammy and The Boss. This has the same stench of the Adam Sandler Netflix deal, where he yearly brings all his friends together and travels to some exotic location and thinly writes a film around this vacation. And I guess if you’re plopped down on the couch at the end of a long day, a mindless comedy might not be so – no, you can still do much better than Thunder Force.
Thunder Force is on the surface a bland, laugh-free comedy that has no idea what to do with two great actresses who shouldn’t be wasting their time with this garbage. But after you scratch the surface, you see how deeply reductive and condescending the comedy in this film is. I can’t remember the last time watching a comedy film left me this deeply angry. If you want to watch a film where two-time Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy is forced to do that stupid floss dance, do an Urkel impression and eat raw chicken multiple times, then maybe Thunder Force is just the kind of trash for you. There’s also a lengthy extended fat joke where McCarthy and Spencer struggle to get into a sports car. And then five minutes later, because the joke was so hilarious the first time apparently, they do that again! And it also lasts a very long time.
Ben Falcone still has no idea why his wife is such a respected comedic actress. Lydia is the exact same character he’s had her play multiple times at this point – she’s an aimless loser with a heart of gold. Her one defining characteristic is she’s obsessive about Chicago sports teams and keeps yelling about them. McCarthy and Spencer have also been close friends in real life for over 20 years, which makes their lack of comedic chemistry in this movie even more baffling. Maybe if they were working off a script with actual jokes that didn’t force them to improvise every single line, this wouldn’t be as atrocious? There’s a chance McCarthy and Spencer could be really great in a film together, but this ain’t it.
So, in the supporting cast we have Jason Bateman as one of the supervillains, who has no powers except he has crab claws for arms. And it’s never explained why. Bobby Cannavale also plays a villain, marking his second film in a row with McCarthy and Falcone. He also needs out of this before he’s in too deep. Oscar nominee Melissa Leo is also in this, and she has nothing to do. And of course Ben Falcone himself has to show up somewhere. I used to think he was an engaging onscreen comedic presence, whenever he would show up in his wife’s movies. But at this point I hope I never see his face again.
The main problems with Thunder Force, however, lie with the script and the direction. There is not one joke in this entire film that works, every single one lands with a thud. The silence is deafening in the moments after each joke where we pause for presumably, audience laughter. We’re not laughing, it didn’t work. Also, this is a superhero movie that feels like it was made by someone who hates superhero movies and has no idea why they’re any fun to begin with. The action is hideously shot and everything looks distractingly cheap.
Thunder Force is an unfunny, poorly written, shoddily directed waste of great talent. I’ve never rooted so hard for a Hollywood couple to get divorced. I am a huge fan of both leading ladies, and think they both deserve to work with filmmakers that challenge them, because that’s when they really shine. I don’t know what happened between McCarthy and Paul Feig, but they need to bury the hatchet and start making movies together again immediately. And Spencer needs to hire a new agent and stop being in her friends’ movies as favors. She has a similar problem with Tate Taylor. McCarthy and Spencer both have great careers beyond this kind of movie, but I sincerely hope Ben Falcone goes away and never comes back.