Review: Melissa McCarthy's abysmal tech comedy 'Superintelligence' whiffs
Courtesy of HBO MAX
Technology gaining sentience and controlling our life is a far cry from original, but in the low-grad tech comedy “Superintelligence,” starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband Ben Falcone, you’d think it was just discovered. It’s obvious the filmmaker’s probably watched Spike Jonze’s “Her” followed by “Jexi” and thought it was possible to land somewhere in the middle. Except “Superintelligence” is a far cry from intelligent, and spends 105 minutes in a comedic deadzone, starving for laughs but never finding any. The film’s biggest joke is how the A.I takes on the lifeform of James Corden. If that’s supposed to be a complement, it never feels like one, and screenwriter Steve Mallory should read the room.
McCarthy plays Carol Peters, who is a bubbly personality that used to call the shots for Yahoo and decided money wasn’t making her happy. Living in Seattle, Carol spends her freetime rescuing pups and harassing Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry - better than this) an old high school pal who programs code for Microsoft. Considering her background in the tech industry, it’s laughable how Carol is amazed at the smallest of technological advances. Hasn’t she seen this before? When asked to work for a dating app called “Badunkadunk” she passes. Somewhere, there’s a version of this film where Carol takes that job and “Superintelligence” becomes 1000% more enjoyable.
Instead, the script makes Carol “the most average person in the world” which prompts a rogue A.I - who doesn’t have a name and embodies Corden because it’s Carol’s favorite celebrity - to study humanity for three days and determine if earth is worth saving. There’s never any explanation for how this A.I works or manages to embody every living appliance on the planet. The screenplay assumes we’ll just chalk it up to: “Alexa but on steroids!”
No joke, the A.I hijacks grocery store displays (and yells at customers), the jumbotron at a Mariners game, and orchestrates car crashes to show its power. The A.I - for reasons unexplainable - becomes interested by the way Carol lusts after her ex (Bobby Cannavale - looking lost and insecure) and plots for them to get back together. And - in the one silver of originality this script musters - the superintelligence doesn’t remain a secret, forcing the United States government, headed by President Jean Smart, to plot its demise
Director/husband Ben Falcone has a fun bit as a government agent alongside an always welcome Sam Richardson, which produces a chuckle or two, but it's clear that “Superintelligence” isn’t in the business of making people laugh. Warner Bros had the film on its release calendar last year for Thanksgiving and at the 11th hour decided to save it for HBO Max where families can throw it on as background noise over the long holiday weekend. For my part, I’ve been a defender of McCarthy and have enjoyed her screwball comedies “The Boss” and “Tammy” and occasionally she’ll remind audiences of her brilliance thanks to “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” But if this is where her career (and the fate of studio comedies) are headed, we’ll need more than a James Corden voiced A.I to save us.
SUPERINTELLIGENCE streams on HBO MAX Thursday November 26th