There is a recurring joke Thunder power about how a character can’t tell a joke. It feels like a metaphor for the film itself.
To be fair, it’s more than just the premise of this joke itself, it’s execution. The opening section of Thunder power offers a kind of origin story for its two main characters Lydia and Emily. The two meet at school. At school, her only other friend is a geeky kid named Clyde. In these flashbacks, Clyde is introduced with an obvious crush for Lydia and an inability to properly tell a joke. When the film returns to Lydia in adulthood, Clyde is quickly reintroduced and still unable to properly tell a joke.
The basic law of comedy – or storytelling – would suggest that this is a plot point that is set up to pay off. It’s the standard “Rule of three.” A concept is presented to the audience. It is then repeated to determine. Then it will finally be undermined. It is this third iteration of the concept that serves as the punch line. It’s at the heart of the joke. Instead, Clyde simply disappears from the film. His inability to tell a joke is ultimately just an inability to tell a joke. It takes a lot of time building this world and is going nowhere.
There is something in there that almost breaks the fourth wall. It’s a joke about how a character in this movie can’t tell a joke that is told in such a way that it isn’t Really not a joke either. It’s a moment that captures so much Thunder poweralbeit in an unflattering light. It’s also very similar to the rest of Thunder powerpainfully uncomfortable.
To some extent, it’s hard to indulge Melissa McCarthy too much Thunder power. The film feels a lot like her own response to the similar deal Adam Sandler has on Netflix, where a successful comedian is given a decent production budget and is encouraged to hang out with friends and former employees while delivering a feature film that only occasionally threatens to submerge “Observable.”
McCarthy has a clear production group that she works on Thunder power. As in Tammy, The boss, Life of the party and Super intelligence, Thunder power is both written and directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone. Falcone himself plays a small role in the film as a henchman named “Kenny.” The cast consists of other actors who have previously worked with McCarthy and who clearly enjoy the process of working together.
Jason Bateman works with McCarthy after working on it together Identity thief and their common cameo roles in Central intelligence. Bobby Cannavale works with McCarthy in an antagonistic role very similar to the one he played in spy, but also fresh from a collaboration with McCarthy and Falcone Super intelligence. Watch the movie, Thunder power has the feel of a late-time Adam Sandler movie populated by a range of actors who find each other weird but apparently just off-camera.
Narrative, Thunder power is a strange movie. It’s essentially an attempt at the classic “Strange Couple” Comedy premise, with Lydia and Emily. McCarthy plays Lydia, who is basically decent, if completely unremarkable. Lydia is essentially a watered down and family-friendly version of the well-known archetype McCarthy has played since then Bridesmaids. She is a wreck of a human with a fundamentally decent core and an informed outlook.
Lydia faces Emily. Emily is played by Octavia Spencer, who never manages to make up for the lack of character on the site. Emily is that “Snob” to Lydia “Slob”, the aggressive and motivated geek who may need to learn to relax and enjoy life. Emily’s family was killed when she was a child and she has spent her entire life trying to understand that loss without ever really going out into the world.
A better film would take advantage of both the charisma of these two main characters and the resulting difference between these two characters. There’s an obvious arc in the character setup where Emily inspires Lydia to make something of herself and Lydia teaches Emily to relax and enjoy life. This is not rocket science. This is just a simple illustration and drawing arcs.
Unfortunately, Thunder power is completely uninterested in doing anything with these characters and seems to be content with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer sitting back and forcing through an endless series of scenes that never really lead to anything useful. Neither Emily nor Lydia change as the film progresses, save for a few awkward moments where character development is relegated to awkward exposure and rushed melodrama. Nobody in Thunder power seems to be trying.
To give an obvious example: part of the second half of Thunder power is built around a freaky one “Opposites attract” Romance portrayed as something unconventional and bizarre. The logical thing to do with this character arc would be to give it to the tense Emily as a demonstration of how much she has grown and how she has moved a little outside of her comfort zone. Instead, Thunder power gives Lydia the bow because that kind of goofy romance is portrayed as the kind of thing a Melissa McCarthy character does.
Thunder power aims precisely at the lowest common denominator. McCarthy is a really fun comedian, as her work on films like shows Bridesmaids and spy. However, many of her weakest films fall back on the crutch that it is inherently funny when McCarthy falls or is physically injured. No justification is required. Thunder power finds the picture of McCarthy falling down funny.
The other half of, of course Thunder power is that that “Strange Couple” Comedy is played within the confines of the superhero genre. Emily’s parents were murdered by the super criminals known as “Rogue”and Emily has vowed to create superheroes to fight these fiends. Of course, Emily and Lydia are the first of this new generation of superheroes to bear the name Thunder power for themselves.
However, Thunder power is amazingly lazy when it comes to superhero action and drama. The opening scenes establish the world of film via comic panels that are provided with letters Comic without. It couldn’t be better. In fact, the movie’s most telling clue to other superhero traits is the decision to shoot in Chicago so that parts of the film look as closely as possible to the film Batman begins and The dark knight.
There are only a few gags Thunder powerwho spends way too much time just playing through familiar clichés and beats. Cannavale plays a local politician who calls himself “The king”, Campaigning on a platform for law and order after an attempt in his life. Pom Klementieff plays Laser, the first major villain introduced – who can fire beams of energy from their hands. Jason Bateman plays the Crab, a low-level criminal known for his claws.
The plot is instantly incredibly predictable – no points to guess real Villain from this plot summary, nor the antagonist who has a crisis of conscience – and insanely over-detailed in a way that is not particularly interesting or fun. There are times when Thunder power comes worryingly close to taking himself seriously, as if hoping to tell his audience who it is “Real Criminals” are.
What makes jokes is either tired or poorly executed. There is an interesting advanced meditation on the effectiveness of a supervillain who keeps executing his thugs to show off his strength and frustration, but the pace of the joke doesn’t work because it’s too long. There are other weird touches like moments when the crab literally slips out of a scene like a crustacean, but which is strangely positioned in the middle of a sequence where it is not the focus.
That doesn’t help Thunder power is inexplicably an hour and forty-five minutes long. This duration feels like an eternity. It feels like several Visits to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It takes about an hour for the movie to properly start, and it just drags back and forth while stuck in a myriad of subplots that it doesn’t seem able to wrap up properly. It is painful.
Thunder power is a bad joke, told terribly.