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November 26, 2020


written by: Steve Mallory
produced by: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy and Rob Cowan
directed by: Ben Falcone
rating: PG (for some suggestive material, language and thematic elements)
runtime: 106 min.
U.S. release date: November 26, 2020 (HBO Max)


Director Ben Falcone made his directorial debut in 2014 with the comedy “Tammy”, which he co-wrote and co-produced with his wife and star, Melissa McCarthy. Since then, the couple have continued to collaborate together in other comedies such as “The Boss” and “Life of the Party”, through their production company, On the Day Productions. Their latest is “Superintelligence, which they once again co-produced and Falcone directed, with a screenplay from Steve Mallory, another frequent collaborator of theirs. It may be another starring vehicle for McCarthy, but it’s different, a welcome departure from the brash and crude R-rated fare we’re used to seeing from the couple. It’s a rated PG rom-com with a dash of tech intrusion that’s easy to watch with likeable characters. It’s hard to believe such an algorithm is a rare thing.

Former corporate executive Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) used to work in the tech world, but left years ago to try and find a path to make the world a better place in her own way. She’s taken on small jobs while searching for something permanent, recently interviewing with a bizarre dating app as a recommendation from her tech genius friend, Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry, always good). Somewhat unhappy, her heart laments her break-up years ago with boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale), but Carol’s life is about to take a strange turn when she hears the voice of James Corden coming out of her landline, television, radio and home appliances in her Seattle apartment.



For reasons unclear, an A.I. program has become “aware” and chosen Carol as a vessel to evaluate and test humanity and determine if they should be assisted, enslaved, or eliminated altogether. It comes to Carol in the form of Corden’s voice, because apparently she’s a fan of the English actor, comedian, and talk show host (she’s also a huge fan of Barenaked Ladies), and his voice is soothing to her. Her encounter with this Superintelligence is startling and strange at first, with the program paying off her school loans and depositing ten grand in her bank account. Soon enough, he sets he sends her off to a botique to upgrade her look in order to win back George (and hopefully understand human love) and sets her up with a modern loft in a nice neighborhood, all while driving her around in a brand new Tesla.

The problem is George is leaving in three days for a year-long teaching gig in Ireland, which is the same amount of time this Superintelligence will be getting rid of mankind. Meanwhile, Carol’s friend Dennis (the only person she’s told about her tech encounter) has contacted the NSA and is now working with the President of the United States (Jean Smart) and her military generals (Michael Beach and Rachel Ticotin, in very limited roles) to combat a global tech takeover. Despite two NSA agents (Falcone and Sam Richardson) following around Carol and reminding her that the end of the world is dependent on her interaction and influence with Superintelligence, she is sidetracked by her romantic reunion with George.



Carol and Superintelligence have discussions about the pros and cons of human nature, with Carol making a case for our potential and the A.I. program determined that “pulling the plug” on civilization is the way to go (no surprise). It’s all quite a saccharine, improbable, and exaggerated take on what humans need and if they’re worth it…things we already know the answer to, sprinkled with specific 80s references such as “Knight Rider” and War Games”.

For a change, Carol is not one of those wacky or big characters that McCarthy often plays, nor is she a bitter or mean person. She’s kind, “average” and “low-risk” (two descriptions used by others about her), but she’s also fatigued by life and somewhat crippled by low self-confidence. Still, Carol isn’t a downer of a role and McCarthy embodies her with easy likeability, along with questionable fashion (get rid of the fanny pack) and some inevitable physical comedy (McCarthy struggles to balance on a bean bag in the aforementioned interview and she gets thrown on the ground by her Tesla) bits that McCarthy is known for.

McCarthy is at an interesting place in her career lately, which can be seen in the choice of roles she takes on. She’ll take on something completely different, such as two recent serious turns in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “The Kitchen”, and then she’ll continue the comedic roles she and Falcone gravitate to. Because her character here isn’t as abrasive (I can’t recall one profane word being uttered out of Carol’s mouth) as others McCarthy has played, she stands out here. Maybe such a change is due to the fact that this is the first romantic lead role McCarthy has taken.

That being said, if Corden’s Superintelligence was taken out of the movie’s story and the focus was solely on a woman taking a courageous step to right some wrongs and get back together with a former friend and lover, there would be a more compelling story here, if the writers steered clear from some of the predictable beats in so many rom-coms. The chemistry is easy to see between McCarthy and Cannavale (a welcome presence, playing against type), so if the movie could’ve concentrated on them and maybe offered an approach similar to say, Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said” from 2013, there would’ve been a movie that delved more into the complexities of human relationships, rather than an annoying A.I. out to off humanity.

Okay, full confession…I find James Corden kind of annoying. Kind of. A little Corden goes a long way with me. However, I get the draw he has for some, but my Corden threshold is slim, which likely hampered how invested I was able to get with “Superintelligence”.

Still, I was drawn to certain elements of the movie, such as McCarthy, the idea of one’s life being interrupted by an A.I., and the notion of whether or not humanity is worth saving. These concepts have been examined and spotlighted in other movies (certain sci-fi classics come to mind), but at least this one revolves around one person trying to reconnect with another person.

“Superintelligence” unintentionally serves to remind us that the fate of all mankind is too much of a weight for one average person to bear, especially someone who just wants to reconnect with someone she loves. While it’s ultimately an agreeable and welcome change of pace for McCarthy, it’s also bogged down by some goofy tonal shifts and obvious score cues that feel part of a different movie altogether.


RATING: **1/2

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