Once again, Melissa McCarthy teams up with her husband Ben Falcone for another underwhelming attempt at comedy, following The Boss, Tammy, Life of the Party and Superintelligence.
Their story begins back in the 1980s in Chicago with two lifelong frenemies. In school, Emily Spencer (Bria D. Singleton) is savvy and studious – with ambitions to become a geneticist – while Lydia Berman (McCarthy’s daughter Vivian Falcone) is an impulsive, disorganized slob.
Flash forward to their 25th high-school reunion. Emily (Octavia Spencer) has become a tech millionaire with a 15 year-old super-smart daughter (Taylor Mosby), while Lydia (McCarthy) is a Bears-loving, beer-swilling forklift operator.
It seems that – in 1983 – mysterious cosmic rays affected the DNA of some people with inherent sociopathic tendencies, turning them into super-criminals, called Miscreants, led by William Stevens (Bobby Cannavale), a sadistic mayoral candidate known as ‘The King’; his ‘enforcers’ are electro-bolt throwing Laser (Pom Klementieff) and the villainous Crab (Jason Bateman), whose genitals were grabbed by a radioactive crustacean, leaving him with pincer claws instead of hands.
Brainy Emily vows to stop them by creating her own superhero serum, incorporating strength and invisibility and, somehow, Lydia manages to get injected with the strength formula. There are glimpses of her taking boxing lessons, lifting 20,000 pounds, jumping 14’ in the air and pulling a tractor-trailer.
“Let’s get swole and kick some Miscreant butt,” she bleats. That’s how middle-aged Emily and Lydia become a spandex-clad, crime-fighting duo called Thunder Force.
Unfortunately, inept writer/director Ben Falcone forgets about essential character depth and development, telegraphing the lame slapstick gags, which lack any sense of pace and timing. Worse yet, he totally wastes the considerable talents of Olivia Spencer, whose underwritten Emily is simply steadfast, drifting along for the ride as a relationship sidekick.
FYI: That repulsive raw chicken flesh that Lydia gobbles is really thinly-sliced pears treated with citric acid and food coloring.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Thunder Force” is a tacky, tepid 3, a dismal drag.