A movie like “Thunder Force,” on the other hand, would like to skewer the genre, but it’s basically a whiffleball action comedy studded with middle-drawer Melissa McCarthy gags. The movie teams McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as estranged high-school pals who get back together after a reunion and turn themselves into a superhero team called Thunder Force. Lydia (McCarthy) has super-strength; Emily (Spencer) can turn invisible. Both are devoted to fighting Miscreants, mutant sociopaths who came into being when a pulse of interstellar rays struck the earth in 1983. The two get their superpowers after being injected with a genetic formula pioneered by Emily’s corporation. Inside, though, they remain their deeply ordinary selves, which is part of the joke, though it isn’t much of a joke.
They’ve got armored suits that make them look like members of a medieval S.W.A.T. team. They’ve got a name — Thunder Force! — that sounds just ridiculous enough to have been the title of a Howard Stern “Fartman” movie. They’ve got a purple Lamborghini, which it takes them a minute to stuff themselves into (or wedge themselves out of).
And when they meet the Crab (Jason Bateman), a Miscreant with crustacean pincers for arms, who for some reason is holding up a convenience store, Lydia looks into his eyes and it’s love at first crab pinch. There’s a fantasy sequence in which the two dance to Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City,” which is amusing, though I kept thinking that if this had been an “Airplane!”-style spoof, that dance number, with Bateman’s crab/human Lothario in a powder-blue tux, would have grown progressively more absurd, getting loopier and loopier, until it detonated the audience with laughter.
How much of a loser-slob is McCarthy’s Lydia? She’s a lonely alcoholic forklift operator who’s also a metalhead, the kind of person who sits in her kitchen in a VAN HALEN KICKS ASS T-shirt, taking bites of cereal with spoiled milk, which she then remedies by pouring in a beer (“Know what? Gonna thin that out”). She wears an Army jacket and has no friends, though she does have a funny moment when she shows up at the security desk in the office building that houses Emily’s genetics corporation, asking to see her ex-friend (“Estranged, I think, puts a stink on it that it might not warrant…”).