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Movie review: Thunder Force

'Thunder Force' is a superhero comedy with no affection for superheroes and little comedy

Thunder Force
Directed by Ben Falcone
Streaming on Netflix

It’s not like Thunder Force is a bad movie, it really isn’t bad. Yes, it’s lazy and predictable, and stretches too far for some jokes, not far enough for others. And there are a lot of moments when the leads look bored. But it’s not a bad movie. It’s not good, either. It’s all kind of m’eh. Thunder Force is the movie equivalent of mashed potatoes and not the good mashed potatoes with chunks of garlic and some of the potato skin and maybe some cheese. It’s more like left over bland mashed potatoes and there’s just a dribble of gravy but you’ve already reheated the potatoes and you’re all ‘this is what I’m stuck with’.

What elevates Thunder Force is Jason Bateman. He is that little bit of gravy in this overstretched metaphor. Every scene he’s in elevates Thunder Force from a movie that plays in the background to something almost worth your time. With his crab arms and Zoidberg sideways shuffles out of danger and his charming yet sarcastic delivery, he is the gift that keeps on giving. He has a gift for exasperation that makes even the laziest joke seem original. And, yes, he does have crab arms. With crab claws for hands.

What else qualifies as gravy on these microwaved mashed potatoes? Bobby Cannavale seems to be having some fun as William ‘The King’ Stevens. He starts at around a nine and then cranks it all the way up to Al Pacino in Heat. He doesn’t only chew on the scenery; he is having a seven-course meal. Taylor Mosby is charming as Octavia Spencer’s daughter Tracy. So, yeah. That’s the gravy. Too bad everything else in Thunder Force is microwaved mashed potatoes made with powder milk and margarine.

There is potential here. A parody superhero movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer? Bring it on. A parody superhero movie packed to the rafters with talent like Bobby Cannavale, Jason Bateman, Pom Klementieff, Melissa Leo, and Kevin Dunn? Oscar winners and Oscar nominees in a movie poking fun at the single most popular film genre ever? Take my money.

But the movie is, except for Jason Bateman, rarely funny. Remove Jason Bateman and there are maybe a couple of soft chuckles and a few smiles and maybe a ‘huh, that was kind of gross’ and that’s about it. To see this deep bench of talent in something so bland and predictable and vanilla is just kind of, well, sad and embarrassing for everyone involved. The movie had potential in its elevator pitch, it had potential in its casting. The final product though doesn’t live up to its trailer or Wikipedia page. Thunder Force is a superhero comedy with no affection for superheroes and little comedy.

If you’re looking for something funny and charming and engaging and heartwarming, check out The Last Blockbuster. It’s the story of the rise and fall of Blockbuster, and the last Blockbuster, located in Bend, Oregon. Sure, there’s some nostalgia involved, and I really don’t like nostalgia at all. But the documentary is so good at bringing home its thesis that video rental wasn’t so much about the product as it was the community that I can overlook the nostalgia.

A good variety of talking heads talk about their personal history with video rental and what went sideways and how Netflix survived and Blockbuster didn’t. There’s an alternate timeline where we’re talking about what’s new on Blockbuster and people are getting all misty eyed about their memories of Netflix.

So, yeah. Thunder Force isn’t as much fun as its trailer. And The Last Blockbuster is a lot more fun and entertaining than a documentary about video rental in the 80s and 90s should be.