Superintelligence (2020)

Imagine having the nerve to call your film Superintelligence when neither jokes or intellect are on display in any capacity.  As much as its evident that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone have a loving story of their own, their personal success doesn’t translate professionally as this, their fourth collaboration together as star and director (respectively), leaves much – and I mean MUCH – to be desired.

As the most average person in the world, McCarthy does her best to inject her inherent likability into the role of Carol, a do-gooder type living in Seattle who has constantly put the needs of others above her own.  When a newly-awakened Artificial Intelligence learns of her existence, it decides to judge humanity based solely on her.  Yes, this is actually the plot.  Opting to appeal to Carol by taking on the voice (and occasional human form) of James Corden, her favourite celebrity, the A.I. is debating on whether or not it wants to save humanity, enslave the population, or simply destroy the world in a bid to wipe the slate clean and start over.

Somehow, it decides its outcome will be based entirely on whether or not Carol can get back together with her ex, George (Bobby Cannavale), but because the military naturally get involved, Carol grows more concerned by the day that such powerful assistance will only convince the A.I. more that humanity deserves to perish; and given that Superintelligence thought someone like James Corden was the best choice to serve as the technology’s voice, you can’t exactly blame this thought process.

With Tammy, The Boss, and Life of the Party serving as the previous Falcone/McCarthy collabs to defy critical lambasting to turn impressive profit, it makes sense that the duo would be given a hefty budget and creative freedom here.  It’s just a shame that they gave sole writing credit to Steve Mallory, with the sometimes-actor-turned-writer unable to land any of the wit or crude zingers that McCarthy and Falcone were able to conjure up with their other films; as average as the aforementioned films are, it’s difficult to deny that they manage a few decent giggles throughout.

Whatever humour does try to land in Superintelligence, it purely works because of the commitment from its willing cast.  McCarthy, unsurprisingly, gives it her all.  She’s less brash than what we’re used to seeing, but her penchant for physical comedy manages to illicit a smile, at least.  Falcone and Sam Richardson manage to not entirely embarrass themselves as a pair of FBI agents intent on taking the A.I. down, and Bryan Tyree Henry escapes unscathed as Carol’s supportive, concerned best friend.  If there’s one area Superintelligence truly thrives though, it’s through the chemistry between McCarthy and Cannavale.  Incredibly natural – at times it almost feels like we’re a fly-on-the-wall watching a regular couple just enjoy their time together – the two of them dedicate a rapport to each other that belongs in a better film, and if there’s one collaboration that should be repeated after this it’s between them.

Of course, it’s very difficult to not want to comment on Corden’s involvement in the film and just why Falcone and co. felt the need to force his presence further onto us. Granted this film was made in 2018, a time when Corden hadn’t quite become the media pest he is now, but, even still, the script fails to make him even remotely funny, and even if you are a fan it’s highly likely you’ll become put off with just how incessant the film appears to be in advertising just how likeable and hysterical he supposedly is – something that we all know is anything but the truth.

Rarely funny and completely nonsensical – the plot is an absolute mess – Superintelligence wastes genuine talent on an absolute non-event of a movie.  Whilst evil technology-based plots have overcome their own convolution before, Falcone’s misguided comedy doesn’t have the intelligence to mask its narrative shortcomings with anything remotely humorous.  McCarthy deserves better, and one can only hope that the reaction to this will give him the clarity to see her worth too.

Superintelligence is screening in Australian cinemas now.  It is currently available to stream on HBOMax in the United States.

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