By Zoe Talbot
In a world that has been taken over by genetically modified supervillains called Miscreants, Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer) and Lydia Berman (Melissa McCarthy) are initially two unlikely best friends in their youth. Stanton is shy and smart, while Berman is unapologetically carefree and fun-loving, which often gets in the way of the former’s life goals. Emily swore her life to figure out a way to defeat the Miscreants to avenge her parents, who were killed when she was little, and Lydia’s nature does not fit in with that plan.
Fast forward about 20 years, and the two couldn’t be farther from each other. While Emily is running a multi-million dollar science lab, her estranged best friend’s primary traits are liking beer and baseball. On the night of their high school reunion, Lydia goes to Emily’s lab in an attempt to see her again and make amends. However, she’s clumsy and ends up somehow taking the first dose of Emily’s superhero-strength serum, forcing her to undergo the rest of the treatments and become the superhero Emily has been trying to create for two decades. Emily takes the invisibility treatments alongside her, and together they are the “Thunder Force,” a superhero duo and the only civilians built to fight the Miscreants.
Going into this film, I thought it was more child or family-oriented, but upon seeing the PG-13 rating and the mild cursing, I realized that it was probably intended for audiences closer to college students. That being said, the film doesn’t really act like it. While at first I was charmed by some of the ridiculous humor and particularly minor characters like Emily’s daughter, Tracy (Taylor Mosby), after about three jokes focused on Lydia eating raw chicken I had to wonder what this film was trying to be. I felt as if, for an action-comedy, it wasn’t committed a great deal to either, and Spencer is somewhat outshined in these scenes that did not play to her strengths.
Lydia’s reckless and rambunctious personality is the source of most of the conflicts between her and Emily, which can be amusing at times, but obnoxious at others. Even worse, Lydia is clumsy, making for an abundance of scenes where McCarthy falls, spills something or awkwardly moves in her new suit. Not only is it hard to watch, but I felt there were so many moments where Spencer could have taken charge and been allowed to to be an equal in their comedic relationship. This could just be a side effect of writer and director Ben Falcone being McCarthy’s husband, but it is poor writing either way.
I think that one of this film’s biggest failures is being almost two hours long with very little to show for it. The predictable twists and the less-than-impressive superpowers were upsetting, and I couldn’t get over the lack of tension and shock value.
I felt as if I could have predicted the events of the entire film after watching the first 10 minutes, and was let down by the surprise elements I wanted to enjoy, such as Lydia’s romance. Even if the film did get a few chuckles out of me at first, the more I watched I could see what the movie was attempting to do and falling short, which discouraged me and made me feel like the writers didn’t really understand any of the characters in a real way. I felt as if Lydia and Emily could have had so much depth, but the writers wanted to shove it under the rug because it isn’t that type of film.
This film had a good deal going for it when I had watched the trailer. I was eager to see two female protagonists fight bad guys and laugh for a while, hoping for empowerment and antics wrapped into one film that I would get to rave about to my peers.
Maybe my hopes were too high, but I walked away from it remembering nothing but the four (yes, four) scenes focused on how good raw chicken tastes. Overall, I think that this film had potential and failed to grasp that despite its wonderful and star-studded cast.
Had it taken a particular direction, maybe it could have fit really well into a certain genre, but this attempt at action comedy was nothing of the sort, nor is it for children, who would probably enjoy this film more than anyone it was actually intended for.