Thunder Force (2021)

Why oh why does Melissa McCarthy insist on making movies with husband Ben Falcone? I mean, she’s one of the most naturally charismatic screen presences of our generation not to mention a tour-de-force talent at both comedy (“Spy,” “The Heat,” etc) and drama (“St. Vincent,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me”), and he’s a pleasant, casually charming supporting player who always manages to shine even in small roles. But as a director-star duo, they’re the pits: I’ve not seen “Superintelligence” but I have seen “Tammy,” “The Boss” and “Life of the Party,” and all three of them are genuinely terrible, not to mention extraordinarily cruel to their leading lady. Here, Falcone seems to have at least a better handle on basic film and narrative techniques unlike his previous oeuvre, but when “adequate and not too terrible” is the best thing you can say about a director’s skill, then… bruh, he ain’t it. This time McCarthy teams up with the lovely Octavia Spencer, and while they share warm, believable chemistry, both of them are hamstrung by Falcone’s lazy, unimaginative screenplay: McCarthy is at her best when she’s let loose across a movie’s narrative (See: “Identity Thief”) while Spencer has a facility with empathy that makes her relatable, but here, they’re left to wander the desert, trying to wring laughs out of a dusty script that’s additionally compromised by a lame PG-13 rating that ensures no one is going to be particularly excited about the movie. Were it not for McCarthy’s wonderful, megawatt chemistry with co-star Jason Bateman (not to mention a wacky, so-out-there character that’s fitted to his deadpan delivery like nothing could be more fun), this would be a bust. McCarthy and Spencer can’t rise above Falcone’s aggressive mediocrity but they at least give it a shot, and Bateman steals scenes left and right, but overall, it’s definitely a bit of the meh side. Makes me wish I did half-stars because it would be a two-and-a-half’er for sure.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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