Melissa McCarthy’s Star Power Isn’t Enough To Overcome the Tepid Superintelligence
2/5 James Cordens.
It’s always disappointing to see talented actors in films unworthy of their skills. And make no mistake, Melissa McCarthy is talented. The comedic powerhouse has delivered brilliant performances in films like Spy, Bridesmaids, and dramatic work like Can You Ever Forgive Me?, all of which have earned her a spot on the New York Times’ 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century list.
Unfortunately her latest effort, HBO Max’s Superintelligence, doesn’t rise to her level. McCarthy stars as Carol Peters, a former tech strategist who left the business because she wanted to help people. Carol is described by another character as as “the most average person on earth,” which captures the attention of SI, an artificial superintelligence that controls every electronic in the world. SI has decided that humanity can go one of three ways: improvement, enslavement, or genocide. That decision rests on the behavior of Carol, whom SI has chosen to prove humanity’s worth over the course of three days.
If that sounds like the plot of a horror movie, then you’re not far off. To seem less threatening, SI takes on the voice (and sometimes image) of James Corden (who plays himself). As a Corden superfan, Carol quickly warms to the menacing A.I., who communicates with her via phone/computer/rice cooker, etc. From here on, Carol is at the mercy of SI, who has the power to make literally anything happen.
There’s plenty of comedic gold to be mined from the high concept premise, which borrows from films like Jexi and Her. And wish fulfillment is top of the list, with SI paying off Carol’s student loans, putting $10 million in her bank account, and buying her a Tesla.
But while Carol aims to make the world a better place, SI is more concerned with making her rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend George, a nerdy college professor played by a woefully miscast Bobby Cannavale. The movie quickly splits between technological thriller and amiable romantic comedy, two genres that go together like peanut butter and motor oil.
While Carol and George pal around enjoying the best Seattle has to offer, Carol’s BFF Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry) a Microsoft programmer, is recruited by the U.S. government to hatch a plan to shut down SI. Jean Smart pops in as the president, and there’s some back-and-forth between her and Dennis, who is fanboying over being in her presence.
Why does the future of humanity depend on two middle-aged exes resuming their relationship? Why did Carol and George break up in the first place? And why does this movie have an egregious amount of Microsoft product placement? These are all questions the film doesn’t even try to answer as it rolls from set piece to set piece.
The film was directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s husband, who also has a small role in the film. Falcone has directed his wife in Tammy, Life of the Party, and The Boss, which rank among McCarthy’s less successful outings. And while McCarthy is always a pleasure to watch, her star power isn’t enough to make this film work.
However, if you’re looking for some light physical comedy and charming views of Seattle, you could do a lot worse. This is the perfect film to put on in the background while scrolling through your phone or doing anything else. And maybe that’s all it needs to be.
(featured image: Hopper Stone/HBO Max)
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