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Writer, director, producer, actor and real-life husband of Melissa McCarthy Ben Falcone has made his directorial career exclusively directing his wife in comedies with diminishing comedic returns, and Superintelligence continues this downward spiral into the comedy cesspool. The plot is a shameless rip of much better – and much worse – movies, though two spring to mind: Spike Jonze’s amazing 2013 Her and Terry Jones’ 2017 Absolutely Anything, which over promised, and under delivered, the cinematic reunion of the remaining Monty Python troupe. Both are still better than Superintelligence, but that’s not saying much.
Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) had a sweet job at Yahoo! (remember them?), only to give it all up for a life of philanthropy and nonprofit adventures, with the expected results. After a humiliating job interview set up by best friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry) goes all kinds of wrong, she’s spotted by the company’s AI-powered webcam who quickly determines that she is “the most average person on Earth”, establishing the setup so the real fun can begin. And by “fun” I mean a medley of terrible jokes and C-list comedians mistaking mean-girl sarcasm for funny.
Mechanically intimidating at first, the AI settles on mimicking the less menacing dulcet tones of her favorite actor, James Corden (voiced by James Corden). He (it?) explains to Carol that code from a creepy kids toy evolved into a “technological superintelligence”, able to see and control every computer and machine on the planet. Despite being all knowing and all powerful, the AI doesn’t understand humans that well and wants to use Carol as a guinea pig to determine one of three outcomes for humanity: to save it, enslave it, or destroy it completely and “start over”, and Carol will be the linchpin that helps him (it?) decide.
That someone who claims to know tech and wants to return to the techie world, it’s a little crazy that Carol doesn’t seem to know or understand what or how AI works, but that doesn’t really matter as the plot races ahead, one scene at a time. The AI completely upgrades Carol and her lifestyle; she’s got a Tesla, a killer new apartment, new clothes (the worst “dressing montage” ever filmed), and best of all, a 2 billion (with a b) fund using “donations” from illegal bank accounts to help her save the world. But most importantly, the AI will use all its powers to help Carol’s ultimate wish come true: to win her ex-boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale) back.
A parallel storyline about global superpowers plotting to stop the AI from destroying the world helps pad the running time, but nothing really comes from it, other than to let the rest of the cast riff off each other.
Melissa McCarthy is a great physical comedian and, as demonstrated in 2014’s St. Vincent and 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a pretty great dramatic actress, too. At least when she wants to be. But here, almost none of that charm or talent is evident, her performance reduced to the prime numbers of a tired, unfunny schtick ad-libbing one-liners, sarcastic clapbacks, and flopping around for laughs that never come. We’re not supposed to notice (or acknowledge) that much of McCarthy’s fame came from utilizing her plus-size body to great effect, but she’s better than that, and even in this dud there are brief glimpses of her true talents.
But mediocre movies like this, and nearly every movie directed by her hubby Falcone, still want things both ways, to laugh at the “fat lady fall” routine. It’s not funny anymore.
James Corden is, well, James Corden, a decent comedian overextended past all reason. Apart from an occasionally engaging McCarthy, the only other actor worth mentioning is Bobby Cannavale as George, the hapless ex-boyfriend who never really questions why these “perfect” moments keep happening around Carol. Their moments together feel genuine in ways nothing else in the movie does, and if only the filmmakers had skipped the unnecessary “end of the world” stuff this might have been a much, much better movie.
The rest of the cast provides background comedy filler that’s even worse, including Jean Smart, Jessica St. Clair, Karan Soni, Sam Richardson, and others you’ve seen elsewhere made to recite the same sarcastic, under-their-breath unfunny lines as the main cast. I need to stress that every scene between Brian Tyree Henry and Jean Smart is excruciating, almost painful to watch. Yuck.
Superintelligence is a tired, funny comedy filled with tired, unfunny cliches, stale stereotypes and jokes that were dated long before they show up here. Melissa McCarthy and Bobby Cannavale have real chemistry, and their relationship should have been the focus of this AI-powered rom-com, but writer/director/husband Ben Falcone is hardly the model of restraint, overstuffing this technologically illiterate, comically inept clunker past the breaking point. Even a real humanity-killing AI would never be this cruel.