By Richard Roeper
Signal Contributing Writer
Tuesdays on TBS.
The thing about Chad is, he’s the worst. This 14-year-old might tell himself he has the best of intentions, and in fact, he does have a sweet side that bubbles to the surface on rare occasions, but consider just a few anecdotes from the life of Chad:
When Chad’s braces are removed after seven long years, he tells his orthodontist, “Doctor Tony … I don’t know who encouraged you into this damn field, but you’re a terrible orthodontist.”
After learning his divorced mother has begun dating a Muslim man named Ikrimah, Chad freaks out. His mother says, “You do realize technically WE’RE Muslim?” Chad replies, “Yeah, we’re Muslim enough, we don’t need people thinking that’s like our whole thing!”
When Chad’s little sister gives him a hard time, he says, “Nikki, no offense, but you are a whore.” (Mom: “Chad!” Chad: “I said no offense! God!”)
When Chad sees his friend Denise, he asks, “You still have chronic fatigue syndrome?” Denise says, “It’s CHRONIC, so yeah,” to which Chad replies: “That sucks so hard. If it makes you feel better, there are a lot of people who say it’s not even real.”
On Chad’s first day of school, he manages to insult and offend a number of new classmates before the start of first period and later spins wild tales about having had sex over the summer in order to impress the cool kids. That evening, when Chad meets Ikrimah, the new boyfriend, he has a total change of heart about the man being Muslim because he’s Black. Chad asks Ikrimah to drive him to school the next morning and cranks up the music as they pull up, in a blatant effort to demonstrate his “cred” or some such thing.
Jeez. Come on, Chad.
This is the setup for the new TBS series “Chad,” a cringe-inducing comedy in the vein of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” only instead of Larry David playing a fictionalized and misanthropic version of himself, 39-year-old “Saturday Night Live” alum Nasim Pedrad is playing Ferydoon “Chad” Amani, a teenage boy. Though the hair and makeup are impressive and Pedrad delivers a razor-edged, all-in performance, we never quite buy her as a late-blooming and socially uncomfortable adolescent, but the writing is so crisp and funny, and the situations in this sitcom so ridiculously hilarious, we can suspend our disbelief and go with it. (That Chad himself is in such an awkward phase helps Pedrad sell the performance under the oversized polo shirts and baggy jeans.)
As Chad gets into one excruciatingly humiliating situation after another, often because of his offensive takes on race and society, I was actually reminded of Michael Scott on “The Office.” If we saw a “Young Michael”-type show about his teenage years, it probably wouldn’t be all that different from “Chad.”
Every episode made me laugh out loud more than once. Every episode also made me want to look away out of horror for what Chad had wrought upon himself.
Netflix presents a film written and directed by Ben Falcone. Rated PG-13 (for some action/violence, language and mild suggestive material).
t’s always a shame when a group of talented humans get together and deliver something that comes across as a halfhearted effort, even if they poured their blood, sweat and tears into it. Such is the case with the alleged action comedy titled “Thunder Force,” and I’ll start with this:
During one of the many lulls in the plot, co-stars Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy get into a discussion about Glenn Frey and in particular his song “Smuggler’s Blues,” eventually singing along with the tune. Later in the story, they hear “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal, and they sing along with THAT pop hit.
You know what’s kind of fun? Singing along to classic tunes. You know what’s almost never fun because it’s so overdone? People in a movie singing along to classic tunes.
The pop culture nods and the Chicago-centric references fly in “Thunder Force.” McCarthy does an Urkel impersonation and calls one overly serious female executive “Jodie Foster,” and there are numerous shoutouts to the Bulls and the Bears, and even “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and Jim McMahon’s sunglasses. (A cop also refers to a crime on “Grand Street” instead of “Grand Avenue,” sigh.) All well and good, but while “Thunder Force” is set in Chicago, it was filmed in Atlanta, save for a few establishing shots, and it looks like a Chicago-set movie that was filmed in Atlanta.
Geographical groans aside, it’s also a feeble superhero comedy with lazy, gross-out jokes, mediocre action sequences, some bad sitcom-level acting and the appearance of Jason Bateman as a criminal who has crab legs for arms, and you read that right: crab legs for arms. Imagine the hilarity, or lack thereof, when this guy goes out to dinner and the waiter suggests the seafood tower! SMH.
“Thunder Force” kicks off with comic book-style graphics as we’re told: “In March of 1983, a massive pulse of interstellar cosmic rays struck the Earth [and] triggered a genetic transformation in a select few, unleashing unimaginable superpowers … unlocked in rare individuals who were genetically predisposed to be sociopaths.”
I hate when that happens.
After an overlong prologue set in the late 1980s, we pick up the story in present day, with Melissa McCarthy’s working-class gal Lydia reconnecting with her estranged childhood best friend, Emily (Octavia Spencer), who runs a powerful tech company called Stanton 4.0. Ever since Emily was a little girl and her parents were killed in a CTA train explosion caused by a miscreant (that’s the name given to the evil mutants), she has devoted her life to receiving the education and training necessary to develop a genetic platform that will give ordinary, decent people superpowers so they can fight back against the miscreants. Now, finally, Emily has achieved her goal, and that’s when Lydia bumbles her way into accidentally receiving the first treatment that will give her superhuman strength.
There’s no going back, so Lydia continues to receive the very painful (and painfully unfunny) injections to make her ultrapowerful, while Emily takes a series of pills that will give her the power of invisibility. Put the duo together and you have … Thunder Force! Capable of squeezing into a purple Lamborghini (cue the sight gags of McCarthy and Spencer struggling to get into and out of the car) and fighting crime all over Chicago/Georgia!
Bobby Cannavale hams it up as “The King,” a psychopathic crime boss running for mayor who loses it every time someone calls him just “King.” And yes, Jason Bateman is “The Crab,” who became half-man, half-crustacean after a horrific accident and is conflicted about his life of crime, especially after taking a liking to Lydia. (On a dinner date, he tells her he’s actually just “half-creant,” which she mistakenly hears as “half Korean.” In case you didn’t cringe the first time, the alleged joke is repeated in a later scene.) I didn’t think it was possible to ever tire of Jason Bateman and his spectacularly unique way of putting the perfect spin on even the most innocuous of lines (a skill equaled only by Robert Downey Jr. and a handful of others), but it doesn’t take long for The Crab to grate on me to the point where I wanted him to buzz off, pincers and all. Like everyone else in “Thunder Force,” he’s mired in a thunderously bad film.
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