2020 is winding down and the year hasn’t stopped winging curve balls our way, what with major blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984 going to HBO Max and festival darling Nomadland getting a limited virtual screening in route to a wider release in February. Left and right, major Hollywood movies are moving from theatrical exhibition to streaming apps worldwide. Sans early pandemic animations like Trolls: World Tour and Scoob, one of the first of these is Superintelligence, the latest high-concept comedy from Melissa McCarthy and her filmmaker husband Ben Falcone.
With another draft or three, Superintelligence could’ve been a great comedy. As it is, it’s a mildly entertaining riff on science fiction mythos and actual science regarding the possibility that an artificial intelligence could become self-aware and take over the world. Here, the AI pegs McCarthy’s Average Jane Carol Peters as the subject of a little experiment: it’s trying to determine whether to save, enslave, or destroy the human race. Essentially, if she plays her cards right, the AI might save us all from ourselves. If she doesn’t, it’s possible we all perish. By the end, everything hinges on her wooing back serious ex-boyfriend Bobby Cannavale, the one that got away and will get away again if she lets him move to Ireland in three days. James Corden is somewhat amusing as voice of the AI, a celebrity imitation meant to “soften” Carol’s nervous psyche. Bryan Tyree Henry shows up as a tech guru and friend of Carol’s enlisted by the U.S. government once her predicament becomes classified intel. Jean Smart is wasted in a limited role as the Madame President of the United States, her blue blazer and hairdo clearly imagining a world in which Hillary Clinton was President. This is the sort of film that’ll put a smile on your face more than it’ll cause riotous laughter. The latter is in short supply lately and Falcone’s fourth collaboration with McCarthy isn’t exactly the ticket for filling that void. Those pop culture zingers simply don’t zing enough to make us laugh enough, the script seemingly content to pass the time versus making it worth our time.
Superintelligence was made for streaming, no matter the studio or filmmaker’s initial intentions. Not that this brave new world wrought by Netflix doesn’t have its charms, or its share of quality films, but a majority of the time this is what you end up getting: a mixed bag of rom and com that is nonetheless entertaining if your expectations aren’t above board. McCarthy remains an endearing and relatable screen presence and Cannavale is an underrated go-to for the role of a working class guy’s guy. The best part of Superintelligence is watching this comedian navigate extraordinary circumstances with her patented humility. With a little more effort, wit, and intelligence, Falcone could’ve given her a better vehicle for such.
Streaming on HBO MAX