PLOT: Carol Peters, a former corporate executive, has her earnest yet unfulfilled life turned upside down when she is selected for observation by the world’s first super-intelligence – an artificial intelligence that may or may not take over the world.
REVIEW: Melissa McCarthy movies tend to focus on presenting her as a buffoon or clown. From TAMMY to SPY, McCarthy tends to lay the comedy on pretty broadly. For her fourth collaboration with her husband/director Ben Falcone, things scale back quite a bit. SUPERINTELLIGENCE is a cute fairytale with a high concept story that it really doesn’t need. This movie is essentially Cinderella for Millennials despite the two leads both being in their early fifties. Being rated PG means that this is a film that can be watched by all ages even if the subject matter may be a bit too complex for younger viewers and the comedy too tame for mature audiences. The result is a safe movie that has some fun moments but is too harmless to make much of an impact.
The plot is pretty well laid out in the trailer: Carol Peter (Melissa McCarthy) is selected by the artificial intelligence known as Superintelligence (but is never referred to by that name in the film) to represent humanity’s last hope for redemption. With global control over all data and electronics, Superintelligence challenges Carol to prove that mankind is worth saving. How does it do this? Well, it serves as a fairy godmother and gives her everything she could ever want to possess, and sets her up to reunite with her former flame George Churchill (Bobby Cannavale). Secretly putting the two on a path towards rekindling their romance, will Carol and George work out, or is Earth doomed to annihilation?
Through the film, Superintelligence is primarily voiced by James Corden whom Carol has a fan obsession with. While there are a handful of other celebrities who briefly cameo as voices for the A.I., Corden is the only one we see on-screen at any time. His comedic style comes through even if the A.I. is fairly self-restrained. Corden and McCarthy have nice chemistry in the film as their give and take serves as one of the highlights of the movie. There are also nice supporting turns by Atlanta’s Bryan Tyree Henry as Carol’s friend and I.T. expert Dennis as well as Veep’s Sam Richardson and director Ben Falcone as NSA agents observing Carol. But the bulk of the lifting here comes from McCarthy and Cannavale who make a convincing couple on screen. Chemistry is one issue this movie does not have.
The problem is the script. Written by Steve Mallory who also wrote the Falcone/McCarthy film THE BOSS, SUPERINTELLIGENCE plays it way too safe. When the A.I. tries to prove what it is capable of, we witness the safest car accident I have seen on screen. Even the threat of what Superintelligence could do to the world feels utterly neutered and never really poses anything remotely scary. For most of the first act, Superintelligence tries to give Carol what it thinks every human could want and it does feel like a 21st-century update of classic fairytales where the princess gets the castle, clothes, riches. and any worldly possessions she wants. When it then changes to trying to get the handsome prince, the movie ends up feeling a bit forced.
Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy do deserve some credit for keeping this movie from going too far off the rails. Melissa McCarthy does get to do some of her trademark physical comedy but it never ventures into anything inappropriate. In fact, I never realized how likable an actress she could be until she took things down several notches here. As a romantic lead, McCarthy is an utterly convincing every woman and it is nice for a chance to see a female lead pursuing the beefcake leading man. Bobby Cannavale often gets relegated to dramatic roles or villain performances but here he proves his comic timing as we have seen in his ANT-MAN supporting roles.
SUPERINTELLIGENCE is not a bad movie but it is a very safe one. The logic in moving this to HBO Max rather than releasing it theatrically makes sense even if most movie theaters were open for business as this is a project that will be seen by many more people from the comfort of their own homes than it would have on the big screen. SUPERINTELLIGENCE is a heartfelt and light romantic comedy that never really answers the question posed by the titular A.I. but still will succeed in putting smiles on some faces during this unique holiday season.
SUPERINTELLIGENCE premieres on November 26th on HBO Max.