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Melissa McCarthy, left, as Lydia and Octavia Spencer as scientist Emily in Thunder Force.

HOPPER STONE/Netflix

  • Thunder Force
  • Written and directed by Ben Falcone
  • Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer and Jason Bateman
  • Classification PG; 105 minutes

Ah, the ineffable essence of cinéma du Ben Falcone. The director, writer, producer and actor is a tricky, wily player in the arena of big-screen (or whatever-sized screen) comedy. As the husband and creative partner of Melissa McCarthy, Falcone has directed the three worst films of his wife’s career (Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party) … but also a pretty decent one (last fall’s Superintelligence, which found the sweet spot of balancing the actress’s intensely likeably energy and edgy comic rhythm).

By that logic, Falcone and McCarthy’s fifth and latest collaboration, Thunder Force, should represent a progression, of sorts. It’s certainly got a neat-enough hook: In a world where superpowers have been bestowed only on a select few sociopaths, scientist Emily (Octavia Spencer) plans to fight back by giving regular people the power of superspeed, superstrength, etc. But after Emily’s estranged high-school BFF Lydia (McCarthy) is accidentally injected with a prototype serum, the odd-couple pair must team up to save the world from a Trump-ian supervillain nicknamed The King (Bobby Cannavale).

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Bobby Cannavale, left, plays a Trump-ian supervillain nicknamed The King, and Jason Bateman as The Crab in Thunder Force.

HOPPER STONE/Netflix

Okay, there’s potential – especially given that Superintelligence, which focused on a malevolent computer program bent on destroying the world, operated with a similarly high-concept conceit. But with the exception of a few demented scenes teleported over from a stranger, better comedy – mostly involving Jason Bateman’s bad guy who has crab claws instead of arms – Thunder Force is as sloppy and disappointing as the label “A Ben Falcone Film” previously suggested.

I suppose we should all be happy that the Falcone-McCarthy household is a prosperous one. Not only have they found love, they have also developed a successful business formula: Thunder Force is as low-stakes, low-energy, low-cost filmmaking as Tammy, et al. The pair have also engendered a surprising level of devotion among collaborators: Spencer, Cannavale and Bateman have all enjoyed sparring with McCarthy before.

Good for them. And good for Netflix, which I’m sure will find many subscribers eager to queue up Thunder Force as weeknight background noise. But for discerning audiences? I’m going to suggest a trial separation from the Falcone-McCarthy union.

Thunder Force is best to be queued up as weeknight background noise.

HOPPER STONE/Netflix

Thunder Force is available to stream on Netflix starting April 9

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.

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