Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) dines in a restaurant opposite a half-miscreant named Crab Man (Jason Bateman), who recalls the story of how he came to have crab arms. He was snorkeling nude with his partner when they swam over radioactive crabs. One snapped at his genitals, and he developed crab arms as a result. Looking down at the table, Crab Man admits to an understanding Lydia that when he became a half-crab, he fell into a life of crime, as though there is linearity between crab claws and criminal activity.
Then, the waiter comes over to the table and recommends the seafood tower special, which includes crab claws and various other crustaceans. Crab Man, eyes narrowed, fumes in a polite frustration, and asks the waiter if he is as insensitive to every other patron in the restaurant. He lifts his crab claws, and the waiter, stunned, apologizes profusely.
It’s wildly silly but so entertaining.
The new Netflix film by husband and wife duo Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy follows their last movie, Superintelligence, with even more shenanigans. In Thunder Force, McCarthy teams up with Octavia Spencer to play superheroes fighting deadly villains who developed superpowers after a cosmic blast in the early '80s, now known as Miscreants. Of course, the film is supposed to be taken lightly. Any headaches brought on by trying to uncover logic in the film is a misguided approach to an often hilarious and confident spoof on superhero movies.
Falcone has developed a knack for infusing the action with stunts that McCarthy performs effortlessly, making great use of her riotous physical comedy. While it feels more like McCarthy's film, Spencer, as always, is warm and dedicated to her role as a geneticist with the ability to become invisible. With great performances from the supporting cast, which features Bobby Cannavale, Jason Bateman, and Melissa Leo, Thunder Force is a film that infuses its heart into a buddy comedy with superpowers.
Written and Directed by Falcone, Thunder Force is about the friendship between tough-as-nails Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) and studious Emily (Octavia Spencer). They were on different paths from a young age but developed a strong bond after Lydia stood up for Emily at school. In the present day, Lydia works as a forklift driver, chugging a beer on site after work, while Emily is a geneticist trying to combat the Miscreants that plague the city. Lydia contacts Emily to see if she will attend their school reunion after falling out in high school, but when Emily doesn't turn up, Lydia ventures toward Emily's corporate buildings to confront her.
Their lives are now worlds apart, and the dissolution of their friendship meant that Lydia never knew that Emily now has a supremely intellectual daughter Tracy (Taylor Mosby). While Emily is away from the office, an eager Lydia snoops, turns a few dials in the control room, and accidentally injects herself with substances that give her super-strength. Emily had been developing a serum to make anyone a miscreant, and as Lydia starts displaying signs of the injections working, the training Lydia begins. Emily also downs some pills and develops the ability to become invisible. Meanwhile, mayoral candidate "The King" (Bobby Cannavale) and his thug's Laser (Pom Klementieff) and Crab Man (Jason Bateman) have their plans for domination thwarted and must stop the Thunder Force duo from impeding on their agenda.
There are loads of gags to enjoy in this film. Watch as McCarthy, during her training, gets injected in the face over and over. Throwing her head back and screaming through the pain, McCarthy hilariously experiences the changes in her body. Thirty-three training days give the film breathing room to mine the typical training montage. Even seeing McCarthy throw raw chicken down her throat is hilarious. Spencer, unfortunately, doesn't have as much to do with her straight-laced, smart (not nerdy) character, but the duo have a few warm scenes to highlight how their friendship can move forward.
While the hearty laughs are enjoyable, they are often at the expense of watching McCarthy and Spencer dive into more dramatic territory. Where Superintelligence showed strength in the relationship between McCarthy's and Cannavale's characters, Thunder Force's strength is the friendship between these two women, and the film might've focussed more on their reunion. Fortunately, Thunder Force finds its groove once McCarthy and Spencer develop their superpowers. Bateman's dry delivery is an absolute delight, particularly when a fight breaks out between Emily, Lydia, and The King, and Bateman's Crab Man scuttles sideways to safety.
Falcone and McCarthy show no signs of slowing down. They may not garner much love from critics, but when you sit down and accept that their films are enjoyably nonsensical, it makes for a leisurely afternoon viewing.
Now available to stream on Netflix.