Thunder Force, or What Happens to Every Comedic Force

Every major big-screen comedian in recent history has had the same rise and fall: they kick it off in smaller roles, in supporting roles like Adam Sandler in Airheads, Ben Stiller in Happy Gilmore, or Will Ferrell in Zoolander, they steal the show there and eventually move on to starring roles, projects built entirely around their persona and their schtick. The schtick works for close to a decade, making bricks of money and solidifying them as one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But it’s all cyclical, and the fall is inevitable. The schtick wears off for audiences, the box office receipts grow thin, and at some point they begin shifting to more dramatic roles in pursuit of Oscar or simply critical hosannas. That time is now for Melissa McCarthy. She stole the show in Bridesmaids, became a bonafide movie star via Identity Thief and The Heat, and now finds herself starring in increasingly witless comedies that don’t do much for her beyond provide a level of studio perk comfort and serious money in her pocket that only serves to sully her reputation as a great big -screen comedian. Netflix’s Thunder Force is merely the latest example, even if mediocrity is better than amateurism. The rare original slab of superherodom, this is a silly, mostly unfunny farce set in a world where the only super-powered folks are sociopaths and psychopaths, and apparently Chicago is the only place on Earth they choose to live. For some reason the characters only ever refer to Chicago as where these “miscreants” roam. Pom Klementieff and Bobby Cannavale camp it up as baddies with next to no personality, and McCarthy’s Lydia Berman is joined by Octavia Spencer as her estranged best friend, here reduced to being the wet blanket scientist next to a regular Jane wacko. The film’s one semi-saving grace is an amusing romantic subplot between Lydia and a henchman played by Jason Bateman, a guy with a heart of gold and a crab pincer for an arm. These two have enduring chemistry and one almost wishes the picture were a super-powered rom-com instead of a typical action comedy. As it is, it’s a mildly diverting piece of entertainment that will join McCarthy’s increasingly long list of mediocre output. Expect more output in the vein of Can You Ever Forgive Me? in the near future.

Grade: C-

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