Maybe too many superhero movies don’t take themselves seriously enough for a parody to work, or maybe it’s just that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone aren’t the right people to do it. Either way, the MCU is safe from Thunder Force – a flimsy Fantastic Four spoof with heart but no humor.
Falcone directs his wife McCarthy for the fifth time after Tammy (2014), The Boss (2016), Life Of The Party (2018), and Superintelligence (2020), dragging her career back a few years to play the kind of stereotype she has already outgrown. Here she’s Lydia (messy apartment, Van Halen T-shirt, pouring lager on her breakfast cereal…), a Chicago forklift driver whose life took a different path from her old BFF Emily (Octavia Spencer), who (effectively) grew up to be Tony Stark.
In the ’80s, a cosmic ray struck Earth and gave mutant powers to the world’s sociopaths, creating a universe of supervillains with no one to stop them. After Emily’s parents die in a mutant attack, she dedicates her life to the creation of a high-tech super-serum powerful enough to fight back. But it ends up surging through the wrong veins after Lydia accidentally falls into Emily’s gene-machine during a late-night lab visit.
The serum gives Lydia super-strength (as well as super-diarrhea), and one training montage later she’s joining an invisibility-powered Emily as half of Thunder Force – a crime-fighting duo who use science and sass to take down Bobby Cannavale’s mutant army.
Falcone clearly wants to be directing a proper comic-book movie instead of a spoof, and the amount of time he spends building a world instead of poking fun at it results in something that always feels like a compromise. A genuinely funny cameo from Jason Bateman aside, the jokes fall flat amid the clumsy action. Running gags run for too long, with McCarthy leaning heavily into every cliché and Spencer wasted on straight-woman setups that never quite land.
As ever with Falcone’s films, a fine line of pathos runs beneath all the broad strokes, saying something nice here about old friends drifting apart. Thunder Force might have almost worked as a feelgood family comedy if it didn’t try so hard to be a middle-aged Kick-Ass.