Like many die hard fans of Gilmore Girls, I was stunned when the world *just* discovered Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. I spent my teenage years watching Melissa and Lauren Graham keep up with each other so I was not surprised at all when Melissa became a household name. What I was surprised by, however, is that she was now branded as this masculine, slapstick and bodily functions type comic. For some reason this has always bothered me, and probably why I may be the only person on this planet who doesn’t absolutely love Bridesmaids. If I want that kind of movie, I’ll rewatch Wine Country for the third time. I’ve always preferred Melissa’s quick banter to her bodily humor, so I was pleased to see a healthy mix of both in the new movie Thunder Force.
Thunder Force was written by Ben Falcone, specifically for Melissa McCarthy (his wife) and Octavia Spencer. The three have been friends for a long time, Octavia was a fan of Melissa and Ben when they did small scale improv. I can see where his creative inspiration came from because the two are absolutely dynamic together. They play childhood best friends, living in a world in which a cosmic ray has given superpowers to sociopaths. These villains are called “Miscreants” in possibly the laziest writing since the Unobtainium of Avatar – I understand this is common in comics, but come on. Let’s step it up a bit.
Emily (Spencer) and Lydia (McCarthy) bond when a bully is making fun of Emily because her parents were killed. That troupe, which I first noticed in Harry Potter 5, drives me absolutely insane. It’s another example of lazy writing. This is the conversation I imagine going on in the writer’s room (or the writer’s head):
“How do we really pile on the misery?”
“Let’s kill their parents and then victimize them with schoolyard bullying.”
“What characteristic should they be bullied over?”
“Oh well, I can’t be bothered with that detail. Just have the bully laugh at the orphan because their parents are dead.”
Seriously – is this something that actually happens? I cannot imagine any real life scenario in which a kid gets laughs out of a dead parents joke. Though I suppose that a world full of super heroes and villains is not exactly a real life scenario, so I’ll let it slide in this one. Back to the point:
Emily is being bullied at school and Lydia (younger version played by Melissa’s daughter, and she absolutely steals the show) comes to her defense, thus budding an unlikely friendship. Eventually, their differences take them away from each other and they live most of their lives separately before Lydia tracks Emily down for a high school reunion. While waiting for her, Lydia activates a “treatment” which gives her super powers, something that Emily has been working on for her entire life – create super heroes to fight the super villains.
What follows is a typical superhero movie, the villains are easy to spot and the good women win in the end. The two things that make this particular movie stand out from the Marvel universe we’re all desensitized to: the fact that it’s less than two hours long, and the representation.
It’s easy to just look at Melissa and Octavia on the poster and think that it’s scoring the easiest representation ever. Two women of different races, both curvy, both bad ass. While I’ve been critical so far about the lazy writing for the origins part of the movie, I’m willing to let that slide after witnessing the creative way that Ben Falcone confronts the representation narrative head on. It’s easy to tell that the movie was written specifically for the two of them, their humor and chemistry is really what the movie is about, the plot is really just the window dressing. From the subtle (a little girl saying to her parents “Dads! Look!) to the blundering (Jason Bateman going on about being triggered) Falcone is not afraid to leave easter eggs for the people that want to focus on the fact that this movie stars women who don’t look like previous super heroes.
The reality is that no two other actresses could have pulled off this movie. It has the bones of a superhero film with a dressing that has such an individual flavor that it really stands out. These are the kinds of movies that we need for the next generation. It’s time to take the bright minds of youngsters out of the typecast Marvel Universe and expose them to every type of person and all kinds of humor. This is how change happens, and it comes in a damn entertaining package.