Is it the worst the duo have ever made?
THUNDER FORCE (2021)
Thunder Force is the fifth Ben Falcone comedy starring his wife and frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy. His record certainly doesn't show much hope from just the names involved, and after seeing the final product - all worries are rightfully secured. The real question needing answered: Is it the worst the duo have ever made?
Ben Falcone is a completely capable director, as his direction is never what throws me out of the movie entirely; it's always Falcone's choices when it comes to the screenplay. However, while capable, Falcone never seems to know how to elevate his own writing, giving us a mediocre directorial effort every single time he's at the helm. For a superhero film, you'd assume there'd be some quality action sequences between good and evil to which we receive in only two forgettable scenes of combat. Commonly McCarthy uses her powers to throw projectiles at people without thought, while Spencer appears to be doing absolutely nothing productive with her power, but maybe that's just because we can't see what she's accomplishing due to her said "power.” There's just nothing here that we haven't seen time and time again, but with the added mixture of comedy, the entire experience makes for a tiring watch.
Trying to take a shot at the overabundance of superhero content out there by releasing another superhero movie, Ben Falcone pens this script with an adequate premise and abysmal execution. Although a "superhero" film, you'd think that detail was a last minute addition to the story, as it barely plays a part in the overarching storyline. They might as well just be Seth Rogen's The Green Hornet and Jay Chou's Kato at this point but without even the knowledge of martial arts. There are elements within this film that are reminiscent of other films I find oddly comedic, even though they themselves are terrible films. One of those instances is during a dinner date scene between Bateman and McCarthy with Bateman's mutated crab hands being the common joke in the scene - this surprisingly made me reflect on another odd scene, which happens to be from the critically panned Movie 43. These instances happen often and most often these memories aren't ever pulled from highly regarded films. Thunder Force feels like an exhausting compilation of different scenes loosely connected with a bare minimum superhero plot that could have been buried at the bottom of a rejection pile in an agent's bin.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The dialogue throughout the entire film is rough to sit through, both from the words themselves and also because of the timing in which they are said. Melissa McCarthy might be at her worst here, and I'm usually rooting for her to make a comeback with each new comedy released. Here she's putting on a voice and shouting her lines, something that just can't cut it when we're supposed to be rooting for her character over the miscreants (AKA villains) of the city. Octavia Spencer on the other hand delivers her weakly written lines with some finesse, reciting them in a dry nature, resulting in a few smiles with her delivery. However not as mind-bogglingly bad as Melissa McCarthy, the numerous underrepresented supporting roles includes the likes of Ben Falcone, Jason Bateman, Bobby Canavale, Pom Klementieff, Melissa Leo, and Taylor Mosby who all get lost in the shuffle with character advancements coming with no way of knowing how they reached the decision or action in which they are advancing to.
To sum it up further, Klementieff is a horrible villain, with her performance bringing out some unsettling feelings with every word spoken. Not because of how terrifying or riveting her performance is, but because of how poorly her lines come across. On the other side of the coin is Canavale who never redeems the film of it's generic villains, being one himself, but his evilness bursts of violence mixed with a confrontation by Jason Bateman occasionally elevated some brief scenes. Beyond this though, Bateman is unfortunately wasted as an inflated cameo that's connected with some unusual cringe humor that powers the romance between him and McCarthy, something that advances at an unprecedented and distracting pace.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The comic book style opening was a nice touch that gave the film an early 2000s vibe, but those touches quickly dissipated into a typical Melissa McCarthy farce. The powers when used by anyone besides Spencer look decent but never great, with Spencer's invisibility awkwardly done so we can see her sometimes using the power while at others not. The worst offender of the visuals (the director's decision) is a moment seen in the trailer with McCarthy lifting a public bus and throwing it. We see her throw it but it never lands; it's almost like Falcone wanted us to assume that the attempt went bad but with no visual or audio cue to confirm that it did.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composer Fil Eisler has created a generic action film composition with poor comedic timing, making the efforts of McCarthy and company even worse off than they already were. Eisler’s previous effort, Superintelligence, also from Falcone, was a much nicer score. While having similar issues, it never made the film more awkward than the script originally made it. Here, Eisler failed to give Thunder Force any heart, instead relying on the constant action beats to keep you interested. If it wasn’t completely spoiled in the trailer, the use of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ could have led to a warm moment among the duo. Even so the editing of the scene in question lacks the umph from the trailer as it’s not even close to as tightly edited.
Spoiler alert: the film ends quite literally with a floss dance - a dance that shined a few years back, but now is embarrassing to watch in action from any age. Thunder Force is a sloppy comedy, devoid of any humor and littered with wasted talent. Is it the worst offense created by Falcone? No. But that doesn't mean it deserves anyone's attention. In the meantime, everyone should just keep waiting for McCarthy to make another film with Paul Feig.