Review – Two Girls, One Cup of Kryptonite (“Thunder Force”)

Writer/director/actor Ben Falcone has been on a crusade to write his wife, actress Melissa McCarthy, movie after movie until he makes a good one. He had one (The Boss), but all his others (The Happytime Murders, Superintelligence, Life of the Party) have bombed big time. But practice makes perfect, right? Right??

It’s 1983 in Chicago and, wouldn’t ya know it, a cosmic event caused certain humans on Earth to become only super-villains (called miscreants), but not super-heroes for some strange reason. Anyway, in a forced prologue we meet whiz-kid genius Emily Stanton (Bria Danielle) whose only friend at middle school is chubby loser, Lydia Berman (Vivian Falcone–the director’s daughter). Growing up, they eventually part and become estranged, as Lydia (McCarthy) takes a job as a dock worker, while Emily (Octavia Spencer) goes on to found Stanton 4.0, a mega-research facility (like Stark Tower) that is looking for a serum to create super-heroes to defeat miscreants like Chicago’s evil Laser (Pom Klementieff) and the Crab (Jason Bateman).

But while touring Emily’s building and labs, Lydia accidentally gets injected with the super-serum and walaa! Lydia is now a test subject for their new program under the watchful eyes of Emily, her MIT graduate daughter, Tracy (Taylor Mosbey), and serious-minded scientist, Allie (Melissa Leo). As the inevitable training montage gets underway, Emily takes her own super-serum via pills and can become invisible, while Lydia develops super-strength. Together they form a super-hero team called Thunder Force against the bad guys, who happen to be working for The King (Bobby Cannavale), a secret miscreant with a bad temper who’s running for Mayor.

After performing a bunch of good deeds, Thunder Force is a hit, especially with the Crab, who has fallen for Emily after they met during a hold-up. The King, fearing his loss at the polls, puts out a hit on Thunder Force and super-villain Laser almost takes them out, if it weren’t for Emily’s blunt force strength and grating puns. In the end, The King loses the election and goes all psycho, wanting to blow up an entire building, but will he succeed? Honestly, I didn’t really care. I’ve been a fan of McCarthy’s work, but only when she’s given the right material, and brother, this ain’t it.

Her hubby Falcone has, once again, written another cheap one-off script that had SO much potential, but ruined it with an ever-expanding black hole of forced and rushed scenes and gaping plot holes mixed with scattered moments of genuine hilarity. And many of those moments didn’t feature McCarthy, but the secondary cast members and ensemble! A scene with Cannavale and Bateman in The King’s office was comedy gold, as was a quiet conversation between Bateman and McCarthy in a restaurant. Even Falcone, as an inept henchman, was pretty funny. It was nice to see Spencer showing off her comedic chops for once, but McCarthy was waaaay too over-the-top dumb, unlikable, and churlish to make you care for her.

Like I said, this movie had great potential for a tag-team, female-empowered, super-hero comedy, but it never got there with a scripted story that was all too cookie-cutter and paint-by-the-numbers. Over-used clichéd tropes abounded, like the reluctant person becoming a hero through self-sacrifice, the obvious mole in the office, the 2nd act break-up with the 3rd act reconciliation, and the unresolved finale that hints at a future sequel. Gag. I’d become a miscreant myself just to stop that from happening!

**Now streaming exclusively on Netflix   

Supergirl (1984)

It was inevitable that back in 1984, given the popularity of the Superman movie franchise with Christopher Reeves, a spin-off had to happen. So, this movie was born, but NOT by the same producers and movie studios. Yeah, that would explain alot.

Noted for its multiple Golden Raspberry Awards, Supergirl had a stellar cast, but a horrible script written by David Odell who, oddly enough, wrote such wonderful films like Running Scared and The Dark Crystal. I guess everyone’s entitled to a few clunkers now and then, right? Anyway, this story has the innocent Kara Zor-el (Helen Slater) of Argo City (a Kryptonian neighborhood) accidentally, thanks to Zaltar (Peter O’Toole), opening a pocket of trans-dimensional space with a powerful device called an Omegahedron. Kara is sucked through this worm-hole and sent to Earth.

On Earth, the Omegahedron is recovered by Selena (Faye Dunaway), a power-hungry witch who has a goofy assistant named Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro). Sound familiar, Superman fans? Meanwhile, Kara learns she has extraordinary powers and goes after the Omegahedron, but first she must disguise herself as Linda Lee, the cousin of Clark Kent. She enrolls at an all-girls school where she befriends Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), the younger sister of Lois Lane. Supergirl/Linda Lee also meets and becomes enamored with man-beef Ethan (Hart Bochner), who works as a groundskeeper at the school.

Ethan also catches the eye of Selena, who drugs him with a love potion, but it doesn’t work, so Selena uses her new-found powers to animate a construction vehicle to bring Ethan back to her, causing chaos in the streets. Supergirl rescues Ethan and he falls in love with her instead (while in the guise of Linda Lee). Supergirl and Selena repeatedly battle in various ways, until Selena uses her powers to zap Supergirl into the Phantom Zone. There, stripped of her powers, she wanders the bleak landscape and nearly drowns in an oily bog until Zaltar (he’s there, too) sacrifices his life to allow Supergirl to escape through a mirror.

Misusing the Omegahedron, Selena makes herself “Princess of Earth” with Ethan as her lover, and summons a gigantic shadow demon to defeat Supergirl… again. Supergirl begins flying in circles around Selena, trapping her in a whirlwind as she, Bianca, and the shadow demon are sucked back into the Phantom Zone mirror. Free from Selena’s spell, Ethan admits his love for Linda Lee, but Supergirl must save Argo City first, and return the Omegahedron to Krypton. What a dumb ending! Even with the appearance of Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure) from the Superman movies and talk of Superman, this movie lacked the excitement or fun captured by the original.

This was Helen Slater’s film debut and you could tell she was nervous. Can you blame her? Filling in those iconic red boots and cape and working next to Academy Award actors O’Toole and Dunaway? Thankfully, she had a better career later on with much better films. Needless to say, this dumpster-fire movie bombed big time at the box office, which was a shame, given the fact that zero female superhero films had been previously made. Wonder Woman was a TV series from 1975-1979, but in the cinema there was this failure. Screenwriter Odell merely copycatted Superman’s Lex Luther/Otis–villain/silly henchman trope and added a lazy, ho-hum plot without even trying to flesh-out Kara’s backstory or her personal turmoils. Sloppy, damn sloppy.

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