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Film Review: Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer Can’t Make ‘Thunder Force’ Rumble

There’s absolutely no disputing the many talents of Melissa McCarthy. She’s known and beloved to many from early in her career as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls, before breaking out in a big way with 2011’s Bridesmaids, where she stole every scene she was in with her brash humor and unexpected moments of empathy and humanity. Bridesmaids was such a success; McCarthy would go on to be the rare actor these days to be nominated for a wildly comedic performance at the Oscars. She only skyrocketed from there.

McCarthy’s ascension to superstardom hasn’t worked every time (Identity Thief is particularly bad), but her hits have been nothing short of comedic gold. In her post-Bridesmaids career, she has teamed up with director Paul Feig for The Heat and Spy, two of the better comedies in some time. McCarthy has a recurring problem in her career, however: She keeps working with husband Ben Falcone.

Falcone has directed McCarthy in Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party and last year’s Superintelligence. They re-team for Thunder Force, another painfully lame movie, which continues to not understand the range of McCarthy’s abilities. Falcone wrote (which is often the problem) and directed Thunder Force and McCarthy co-stars with Octavia Spencer and shares a producer credit with her husband. They seem content to keep working together but it has yet to be a successful professional partnership.

At best, the movies they work on are just lame and at worst, they are Tammy. Superintelligence and Thunder Force seem like a proper pairing in their filmography, because they are high concept vehicles, featuring strained jokes and drain McCarthy of her hilarious comedic persona. In Thunder Force, she stars as Lydia Berman, who hasn’t spoken to her childhood best friend Emily (Spencer) in many years. When they were younger, Lydia wasn’t very interested in school but was always able to stand up to the bullies, who tormented Emily. Emily was a dedicated student, trying to complete the work her parents started to rid the world of evil miscreants, which threatened Chicago. As adults, Lydia works as a forklift driver, and Emily created a multi-million-dollar company, which is set on creating superpowers to finally beat miscreants.

Lydia and Emily reunite, but Emily is less eager to be around Lydia again. She is very dedicated to work, which minutes into their visit, Lydia messes up but injecting herself with the formula for special powers. At this point, Emily and Lydia have no choice but to team up together and confront The King (Bobby Cannavale), a corrupt politician, and a team of miscreants, including Laser (Pom Klementieff), who are hellbent on destroying the city.

McCarthy and Spencer, longtime friends, have an easy and comfortable chemistry together and there is no doubt they are wonderful actresses (interestingly enough, the year McCarthy was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Bridesmaids, Spencer won the category for The Help). There was clearly an appeal to them working together, but they have both done such interesting work – across all genres – which makes their participation in Thunder Force all that much more disappointing.

There’s not much surprising about Thunder Force and a lot of it is pretty harmless but the jokes aren’t there. Spencer gets the more straight-laced role and McCarthy is, once again, asked to play the ne’er-do-well, who drinks PBR on the job and puts beer in her cereal. Is this is the same actor who gave us great comedic performances, before showing us what a nuanced dramatic artist she is in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

SCORE: ★1/2

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Written by Matt Passantino

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