Melissa McCarthy ( My Best Friends , Les Flingueuses ) and Octavia Spencer ( The Color of Feelings , The Shape of Water ) are the superheroes in Thunder Force, the so-called action comedy that hits Netflix this April 9th. The pain is real in the face of this severe parody, of the unnamed banality, that makes Mystery Men and Hancock pass to Godard.
No one is waiting for the Avengers and friends to come to laugh at the superheroes. Mystery Men, My super ex, Hancock, Super, Kick-Ass or even Super-Héros Movie have rubbed shoulders with it, as have The Tick and The Boys series, taken from existing comics. Suffice it to say that the Thunder Force arrived after the battle. But no one on the team seems to know.
So, welcome to the most basic formula possible in this area. In Thunder Force, a cosmic contraption hits Earth in the 1980s, causing genetic mutations, but only in people who are predisposed to being sociopaths. So here they are adorned with extraordinary powers, and renamed Evil. For unknown reasons, they still haven’t corrupted and taken over the world, while nothing can stop them. At least until two women more or less voluntarily turn into superheroes, to protect the city from these villains.
On the one hand: Melissa McCarthy, in the role of an alcoholic, dirty and vulgar (casting guts), who presses the wrong laboratory button and finds herself endowed with superpowers. On the other side: Octavia Spencer, the geek, scientist and entrepreneur, who creates a superpower serum, and can become invisible. Opposite it is a super villain, led by super villain politician Bobby Cannavale. There’s no need to hope that this all hides something less silly, basic, and calling: The Thunder Force costume is blank, just like the movie.
During the endless 1h45, the team seemed to have more fun than the crowd. Normal: Thunder Force is more like a crony story than a movie. The film is written and directed by Ben Falcone, husband of Melissa McCarthy. It is produced by their company On the Day Productions, like their previous collaborations (Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party, Superintelligence). And as usual, Falcone gives himself a minor role (here, the supervillain’s henchman, with an obviously lame joke).
Bobby Cannavale and Jason Bateman have toured with the actress before, including Spy and Pay Per View. The film is also being produced by Marc Platt, who is behind the direct remake of The Little Mermaid in which McCarthy will play Ursula (as well as La La Land among others). And Netflix paid for it all, knowing that the actress had set foot on the SVoD giant with a reunion episode of the Gilmore Girls series in 2016.
On the screen, Thunder Force looks like an empty operation, where everyone in principle has signed, with the promise of a three-line pitch. Hence the nameless mundane scenario, which piles up scene-replica-of-the-character ideas seen and heard a thousand times, with the bluntness of irritating a kid who thinks he invented Lego by piling his shit up. From which the characters are characterized in two sluggish dialogues, dramatic stakes completely sidelined (the famous shattered friendship between the heroines), and a directionless universe (great evil wants to control the world, but seems unwilling to use and assume its power). therefore).
Written with the ambition of season 4 Charmed and the subtlety of The Nutty Family, Thunder Force doesn’t even serve its heroines, on the contrary. Was Lydia a social case that got carried away too quickly? He must learn to harness his superpowers instead of throwing a bus, and become a responsible adult. The nerdy Emily always tends to be less conflicted and withdrawn? His invisibility powers will be therapeutic so he learns to exist, eventually. A neuneu of symbolic power, which makes you want to see The Incredibles again to compare treatments when there are real authors.
Thunder Force perfectly illustrates a certain deviation from American comedy: this logorrhea with the semi-improvisational charm of which Melissa McCarthy has become the master. Passed by improv troupe The Groundlings, the actress has it in her blood and has shown it in Judd Apatow (40 years manual, En blister, manual) and of course my best friend (including against Ben Falcone, again). But this comedy weapon falters if it serves as the engine of the entire film.
The film is constantly hampered by this never-ending exchange, in which a piece of joke is stretched in ping-pong krestlessness, to a dead end. Jokes over a bowl of spoiled milk mixed with beer, another in Urkel from the Family Life series, a musical break in Seal’s Kiss From a Rose (because, Batman Forever of course), a monologue by a minion explaining what he likes to be called, not to mention waterfalls. Melissa McCarthy: every scene is constructed and filmed the same way.
And it’s a shame for that precious sense of comedic time, which has traditionally relied on precision and silence – in short, writing. Laughter, emotion, action: everything is overplayed, highlighted, overexplained, and relegated to the same level. Because apart from that, Thunder Force seeks itself out, not completely assuming a superhero parody (too flat to be funny and relevant), nor an actual superhero movie (too basic to be entertaining).
Not surprising in the face of staging at its most transparent, at worst raw (especially in action). The best acknowledgment of failure is a woman who is invisible, in fact almost always visible to the public thanks to a transparent halo, and who reappears as soon as she interacts with someone. The lack of a ruthless fantasy doesn’t help, as the world is bombarded with cosmic rays that are astoundingly down to Madam Lightning Bolt (Pom Klementieff, the only one capable of almost entertaining) and a tough, angry man with bloodshot eyes. The same goes for the heroines: one hit really hard and takes a hit, while the other uses more taser than her invisibility.
Of course there’s Crab Man, a parody of Spider-Man who was bitten by a genetically modified crab, and who now has claws instead of arms. Because of this, he would break his wine glass at a restaurant before getting annoyed when he was offered seafood, would be spiced up by the heroine during foreplay, and even be entitled to a fantasy dance scene with him.
That’s when we thought that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone would be better off opening a Twitch channel to record their evening with friends at their villa, rather than making a movie.