Directed by: Ben Falcone Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Jason Bateman, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Kevin Dunn, Melissa Leo
Available on Netflix from April 9th
Despite all the recent movements, there is still a dearth of strong female roles in films, especially strong female roles for women over 40, who aren’t size 6 former models. This isn’t my opinion. A quick Google search, or a browse through academic papers, will confirm this. It’s a fact. So I, and many others, were thrilled to see a movie in development with not one, but two, women in lead roles, both of whom don’t fit the stereotypes. The fact that it’s a superhero film was a bonus.
Written and directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, this also sports a very impressive supporting cast alongside McCarthy and Spencer. The basic premise is that the world is being terrorised by super-villains known as Miscreants .
From childhood, Emily (Spencer) has vowed to find a way to fight back against them. Many years later, she has indeed developed a serum that will turn ordinary people into superheroes, giving the world a fighting chance.
Unfortunately, her friend, Lydia (McCarthy) doesn’t understand the meaning of the words ‘don’t touch’, and when left alone in Emily’s lab, she finds herself imbued with super powers. Realising that she will have to now be part of the experiment, the women become the self-professed Thunder Force! And just in time, as there is a mayoral candidate, The King (Cannavale) who has been hiding his true agenda, who needs to be brought to justice.
This is supposed to be a loving parody of a superhero film. However, it unfortunately misses the mark. The few good jokes, such as their leather suits becoming rancid because they can’t wash them (lets face it, we’ve all wondered about that watching superhero films!) are wasted, and lost amidst more puerile humour.
McCarthy really goes for it, to the extent that it’s almost embarrassing, whereas Spencer plays it more reserved and serious, making for quite a juxtaposition. Because of this, they lack the spark that makes many of the superhero buddy teams work so well. Bateman is wasted as a miscreant, that is part-man and part-crab, and indeed his character is the butt of many of the more tragic and unfunny jokes. Ditto Cannavale is a great actor, but is given little to do here, except channel his inner panto villain.
This takes a great basic premise, and loses itself down a rabbit hole of unfunny gags, and disappointing relationships. It lacks the heart that makes a great superhero movies great, and isn’t funny enough (by a long shot) to be a parody of the genre.
This isn’t helped by the fact that many ‘serious’ superhero films employ a lot of humour anyway. It completely misses the mark, and falls flat, which is disappointing, as this was an opportunity to make something special that could have opened up a wealth of roles for women.