Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


‘Superintelligence’ not too bright

Rate this item
(2 votes)

Creative collaborations between couples can be a wonderful thing. Two people taking advantage of their personal connection to enhance their creative work has vast potential. We’ve seen it a million times at the movies – think Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach or Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, with one member of the pairing in front of the camera and the other behind.

Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone have this sort of collaborative relationship. Their latest team-up – their fourth with McCarthy starring and Falcone directing – is “Superintelligence,” currently streaming on HBO Max. However, this particular pairing, while robust in quantity, doesn’t quite live up to some of the others as far as quality is concerned.

This new film, the story of a newly self-aware AI deciding to use the most average person in the world to determine the ultimate fate of humanity, is a fairly lukewarm effort. The characterizations are thin and the story is needlessly convoluted, and while there are a handful of decent jokes and moments of physical comedy, the majority of the humor is built on a rickety foundation of pop culture references and overlong bits. McCarthy’s charm keeps it from completely collapsing, but her talents aren’t enough to fully salvage the experience.

Carol Peters (McCarthy) is a woman living in Seattle. She’s a former corporate executive for Yahoo who walked away to devote herself to some sort of vaguely-defined idea of philanthropy – to make the world a better place. She’s single, having broken up with her creative writing professor boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale, TV’s “Homecoming”) a couple of years previous. Her best friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry, “The Outside Story”) is trying to help her regain her footing, even helping arrange an interview with a dating website startup, but Carol just isn’t ready.

Her life takes an unexpected and bizarre turn, however, when she wakes up one morning to discover that she has captured the attention of a newly sentient AI, a superintelligence that, for reasons of Carol’s comfort, has adopted the voice of late-night host James Corden. This superintelligence has decided that Carol is the most average person in the world, and so is using her as a conduit to observe the world. She is the AI’s proxy; over the next three days, her actions and choices will be used to help the superintelligence determine whether it will a) help humanity, b) enslave humanity, or c) destroy humanity.

No pressure, right?

The AI fills Carol’s bank account and arranges for fancy clothes and a fancy car, all while it determines that what it REALLY needs to understand is the relationship dynamic between Carol and George. She tells Dennis about what’s happening; he’s initially skeptical, but it isn’t long before the AI makes its presence known. From there, the government gets involved – the CIA and NSA and armed forces and even the President of the United States (Jean Smart, TV’s “Watchmen”), all of them working toward a plan to neutralize the rogue AI.

Meanwhile, Carol reenters George’s life, even as he’s on the verge of going to Ireland for a year-long residency. But as the two rekindle the embers of the past, Carol is left to wonder what the AI’s true motivations might be – and just what, if anything, she can do to ensure the safety of humanity.

I guess I just expected a movie titled “Superintelligence” would be a little smarter. The plot is unnecessarily convoluted, with a lot of shifts and twists taking place for seemingly no reason. The dialogue is stilted and the characters are underdeveloped. And even the good pop culture jokes are undermined by the script’s insistence of immediately explaining them; for instance, no one needs to be told what the “Law & Order” dun-DUN sound is, yet this movie does precisely that.

Sure, there are a few laughs to be had here – McCarthy’s too talented for there not to be – but they all have a whiff of blind squirrel/stopped clock about them, like their success is almost accidental. And there was one gag that had me laughing even though its execution bordered on the squirmy – a cameo from Ken Griffey Jr. that was just tremendous in its awkwardness.

The truth is that while McCarthy and Falcone are clearly comfortable with one another, they are perhaps unable to fully separate the personal from the professional. One wonders if both would benefit from engaging more regularly in projects apart from one another; it might give both permission to venture outside the rather uninspired box into which they seem to have placed themselves. “Superintelligence” offers a fine example of why these kinds of couple collaborations aren’t always a good idea; this film could have used another voice to balance the scales.

It’s too bad, because this is a cast that deserves a much better movie. We’ve talked about McCarthy; she’s great, but this film essentially kneecaps her, removing so much of what makes her special in service of the averageness required of the character. If you have Melissa McCarthy, you should probably let her do Melissa McCarthy stuff; I’m all for expanding your range, but this doesn’t even accomplish that.

Cannavale and Henry are far too talented to be given as little to do as they are. There’s something fitting about James Corden voicing the AI in this movie – and I do NOT mean that as a compliment. Sam Richardson has a fun turn as a government agent, teamed up with an also-in-the-movie Falcone. Smart is charming as always, but again – she’s not given much to work with.

This is the kind of movie that is entertaining enough in the moment, but that quickly vanishes from your consciousness after it is over. It’s not funny enough, not clever enough, not thoughtful enough … not ANYTHING enough. Ultimately, “Superintelligence” is neither super nor intelligent, but in all fairness, “Middlingdimwittedness” would be a terrible title.

[1.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 30 November 2020 09:50


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine