Thunder Power Film Survey

 Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer wear hero suits to battle detestable freaks in a satire from essayist chief Ben Falcone. 

In the event that Thunder Power will be associated with anything, it very well may be this bizarro commentary: The film denotes the subsequent time, after The State of Water, that a character played by Octavia Spencer learns her closest companion has had extraordinary sex with a fish-man. Which makes it sound significantly more fascinating than it is. 

It helps, obviously, that the trans-species couple being referred to, each with unasked-for superhuman strength, are played by Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. There may be nobody better than McCarthy to punch an invite hole in superhuman self-earnestness. However, Thunder Power wobbles between crazy funny cartoon sendup and pitiful valentine. The most recent element from essayist chief Ben Falcone, McCarthy's better half and delivering accomplice, is likewise the most recent in a line of disappointing parody vehicles for her excellent ability.

With its bland positivity (regular people can be superheroes!), flimsy-bordering-on-indifferent plotting and Post-it-note-deep characters, that leaves the bits and shtick to buoy Falcone's screenplay. They're hit-and-miss, but it's definitely the off-track digressions where the film sparks to life. Among the easy-to-count highlights are a fleeting glimpse of Spencer grooving to Seal and a deliriously over-the-top fantasy sequence between Bateman and McCarthy set to a Glenn Frey single and featuring big-time '80s hair.

The very basic origin story involves cosmic rays that struck Earth in 1983 (as if that decade's coifs and fashion weren't bad enough), creating a group of baddies known as Miscreants. They're sociopaths with superpowers (and no, this isn't a documentary). Spencer's Emily, whose geneticist parents were killed in a Miscreant rampage, has devoted her life to continuing their research and creating superpowers for the good, beleaguered people of her native Chicago.

It's there she returns as the action begins — presumably from Silicon Valley, given the size of her company's sleek downtown headquarters and the fact that her brainy teenage daughter, Tracy (the effortlessly charming Taylor Mosby, of The Last O.G.), has graduated from Stanford. Into Emily's high-tech corporate setup, complete with its scowling ex-CIA exec (Melissa Leo), wanders McCarthy's beer-and-Bulls-loving Lydia. Before you can say "breach in the injection room," Lydia has accidentally become a part of Emily's mission to rid the city of Miscreants. Together they become the crime-fighting duo Thunder Force, Lydia empowered with super strength and Emily with invisibility.

Their war on the criminals seems to be a part-time pursuit at best. This isn't a feature where you should expect nail-biting suspense, but the supposed menace that grips the city never registers as anything but a bit of background noise, and the mano-a-mano clashes land with a so-what thud. Chief among the cartoon-ridiculous villains are Bobby Cannavale's transparently manipulative mayoral candidate, who insists on being called The King and whose henchmen are led by a murder-hungry Miscreant named Laser (Pom Klementieff, Mantis in Marvel movies) and Bateman's human-Miscreant mongrel, The Crab. How he came to have pincers instead of hands is revealed in a first-date conversation with Lydia that provides a satisfyingly weird break from the unsteady narrative

The montage of Lydia's training progress is the movie's best jab at superhero machismo, and the raw chicken flesh that fuels her newfound powers is its best practical effect. The sight of Emily and Lydia akimbo in their bodysuits, their hair windblown, makes its own statement — one that goes unfulfilled, deflated rather than energized by the flat proceedings.

As long-estranged friends who reunite, McCarthy and Spencer strike a few charged chords of awkward affection and rivalry, but Falcone wants to go only so far into the realm of female friendship and its frictions, sticking to predictable beats. In a couple of pre-title scenes, he spells out the odd-couple dynamic between Lydia and Emily, first as 12-year-old classmates, with Lydia played by McCarthy and Falcone's daughter Vivian Falcone and Bria D. Singleton as Emily, and then as teens (Mia Kaplan and Tai Leshaun). The quartet of young actors are spot-on, the material rote. Emily is studious and Lydia is not the sharpest tool in the shed, and so it continues into adulthood. The mother-daughter stuff between Emily and Tracy follows a similarly stock path.