When Lydia and Emily come back into each other’s lives after childhood, Emily has risen to the top of her field as a geneticist and CEO of her own company. Lydia works a forklift. When Emily doesn’t show up to the high school reunion, Lydia is devastated, and goes to Emily’s gleaming corporate offices, determined to drag her friend back to the party. This is their childhood all over again: Emily was studious, Lydia was a bruiser. It worked in childhood, but not so much as an adult. Lydia is told not to touch anything in the offices, but Lydia does, accidentally injecting herself with half of the superhero-genetic formula, the one that will make someone super, super strong. Lydia did not sign up for this, and neither did Emily. Emily is enraged, but there’s nothing she can do. She takes the other half of the genetic formula, the one that will make someone invisible.
Then comes the training montage, as they both get comfortable with their new powers. Meanwhile, a mayoral race heats up in Chicago. One of the candidates is nicknamed “The King” (Bobby Cannavale), and he is an openly evil thug, strutting around in suits that make him look like he stepped out of a Damon Runyon story. The King is in cahoots with the Miscreants, one in particular, named Laser (Pom Klementieff), whom he sics on his perceived enemies. Lydia and Emily name themselves “Thunder Force,” go on a couple of trial runs, before setting their sights on taking down The King. Lydia gets side-tracked by a flirtation with a half-Miscreant named Crab Man (Jason Bateman), who has no visible superpowers, unless you call awkward crab-pincer arms superpowers.
All of this is very standard and none of it is particularly interesting. Watching CGI-generated McCarthy and Spencer flipping and twirling through the air attacking their enemies is not my idea of a good time. What is my idea of a good time, however, is watching them develop a relationship, watching them make each other laugh, watching them act together. They’re great together. That’s the draw, the two of them. There’s not enough of it. By comparison, “The Heat,” where McCarthy played a volatile unpredictable FBI agent partnering with the prim-and-proper rules-following Sandra Bullock, used specific genre scaffolding mainly to let the two actresses run wild within that structure. Every scene features goofy schtick, and the crime they investigate is somewhat irrelevant. The only game in town is their chemistry as actors. “Thunder Force” doesn’t allow for that.
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