Recently, Netflix released the trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy that asks the question: What if the two weird girls from your middle school who smelled like cheese grew up to become the next Avengers? The movie sees Melissa McCarthy trying to reunite with her estranged childhood BFF turned super scientist Octavia Spencer just in time to mess up her experiment and turn the pair into metahumans. As Thunder Force, the dysfunctional duo must face the two of humanity's greatest challenges: the rise of supervillains and having to hang out with someone you knew in high school but have nothing in common with anymore.
As a buddy comedy, the Thunder Force trailer immediately places a lot of importance on the two heroes' history as out-of-their-depth childhood besties, mentioning it half a dozen times in under three minutes. But there really was no need for all that exposition since the trailer opens with the duo humming along to the latest trope in Hollywood comedies: an enduring love of Seal.
As a million articles will point out, Millennials have an enduring soft spot for '90s music, that cavalcade of boy bands, moody guitar artistes, and rappers still figuring out what rhymes with "and I'm here to say." And since most comedy actors and writers these days were '90s Kids, a new trope popped up in the 2010s of comedy characters who are as equally obsessed with the sounds of the Gulf Wars. Like Captain Gene Mauch in The Other Guys, who endlessly quotes TLC lyrics ...
Or the permanently immature Wade Wilson in Deadpool, who starts his first epic action scene not stabbing some guy in the taint but doodling with crayons while listening to Shoop by Salt-N-Pepa on his old Walkman.
But these banging Clinton era tunes don't just feature prominently diegetically; they are often part of the narrative itself. In Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig's Annie has been Maya Rudolph's Lillian's best friend since high school. She uses that veteran status to one-up the other bridesmaids by nostalgia-bombing her bride BFF with a CD of Wilson Phillips, who loses her mind recalling the coffeeshop anthems that scored summer of their sweet 16s.
Rekindling old pastel-colored feelings also happens in The Long Shot, where both Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron begin their courtship geeking out over a surprise concert of Boyz II Men.
And since most faded '90s musicians will now work for 50 bucks and all the Lunchables they can eat, this typically culminates in a very affordable cameo, as Long Shot has a mini-concert with the actual old boys of Boyz II Men.
Some of these bygone bands are even given the honor of closing the movie with an epic music number. Wilson Phillips dust off their pleated skirts and leather jackets to play off Bridesmaids …
While in the apocalyptic bromance This Is The End, old buddies Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel decide to spend their eternity in the afterlife doing zombie hands with the Backstreet Boys.
With these examples in mind, the '90s Kids music trope tends to fulfill two functions. Firstly, it's a shorthand to display immaturity, poking fun at the 30-something Millennial characters who should be acting like grown-ass adults by now. A perfect example of this (aside from every single Seth Rogen character) is James Franco's lightweight talk show host in The Interview trying to be gangsta by quoting 3LW's "haters gonna hate" -- sounding more like Taylor Swift than 2Pac.
ut perhaps the most important of all, it's an immediate bonding moment not just between the two main characters in a buddy comedy but also between them and the audience. Because nothing says "we are two people sharing soul" to the current 30-49 demo than having two people realizing they both know all the lyrics to "2 Become 1."
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Top Image: Netflix