“Superintelligence” stars Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jean Smart, and James Corden. Released on HBO Max on November 26, 2020, the film is about a woman who comes across the world’s first super-intelligence.
The film is directed by Ben Falcone, who also directed “Tammy”, “The Boss”, and “Life of the Party”. We always knew that someday, our world will be taken over by technology. We just didn’t know that this uprising will start with an artificial intelligence that sounds like James Corden. This latest film from HBO Max marks yet another collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and director Ben Falcone, the husband-and-wife duo who has delivered some mildly successful comedies despite receiving some mixed-to-negative reviews in the process. While I too am not a huge fan of Falcone’s filmography (with “Tammy” being the worst in my opinion), I was able to find some enjoyment from some of them due to McCarthy’s likable charisma. Given the film's well-known cast and its family-friendly concept, it looks like it might pull off this familiar feat. Was it able to do so? Let’s find out.
The film follows Carol Peters (McCarthy), a former corporate executive who is living an earnest yet unfulfilled life. One day, she gets some snarky backtalk from every piece of technology around her. At first, she thought it was just some dumb prank, but it turns out that she’s being monitored by the world’s first super-intelligence (voiced by Corden), whose goal is to observe human behavior and see if the world is ready to keep on living or be destroyed. Based on everything that’s going on today, this makes total sense. With time running short, Carol must find a way to prove to the super-intelligence that people are worth saving, while also attempting to win back her former boyfriend George (Cannavale). It’s no surprise that this is another comedy that showcases McCarthy using her own sense of charm and brand of humor to attract her audience, which I didn’t mind since everyone has a different taste in comedy, myself included. Based on the marketing and its concept, you would probably think that this could be a wildly entertaining chuckle-fest that offers fun, comedy, romance, and an endearing message about love. It was able to handle the latter two all right. The former two, not so much. Aside from a fine cast (especially McCarthy) and an okay-ish third act, the film is another unfortunate misfire in Falcone’s directorial career. This is one of those moments when I really wanted to like a film because of its intriguing concept, but it was making things harder for me to do so. I find this very upsetting, and I’m pretty sure that most people would feel the same way. The film definitely has heart, and I can’t call it out for that, but it was sadly overshadowed by two types of viruses: Ben Falcone’s poor sense of direction and its underwhelming humor. You can easily tell that Falcone had no idea how to blend the two genres (comedy and romance) together seamlessly, resulting in his direction being a program with an identity crisis. Is it supposed to be comedy? A romantic love story? A romantic comedy? An action romance comedy? No one knows. I didn’t hate it as much as I did with “Jexi”, another comedy that has a character interacting with an artificial intelligence, thank goodness. It actually left me feeling disappointed rather than upset because of how abysmal the execution was. The film’s plot was extremely bland to a fault, and Steve Mallory’s screenplay missed a whole bunch of opportunities to take the concept even further and make the characters more interesting, especially Carol. It’s like the writer didn’t care that much about getting into the concept’s bizarreness and just used the A.I. element as a way to drive its lazy romantic plot forward. You can still have the romance part in the film as long as everything else is interesting and fun, which are the key words when it comes to films like this. At least with “The Boss” and “Life of the Party”, they had that sense of enjoyment in their humorous and heartfelt scenarios despite them not being that great. With “Superintelligence”, there’s no excuse. It’s almost as lifeless as a 1980s IBM computer. Don’t know what it is? Look it up. There were some jokes that had the potential to be funny, but like its plot, a lot of them felt either lazy or forced, even by its PG-rated standards. I did get like one or two small chuckles out of them, but other than that, the humor just didn’t land for me. Not even the voice of James Corden (who had a decent moment or two) can make it even more amusing than it should be.
Overall, it doesn’t take an artificial intelligence to discover that “Superintelligence” has a lot of bugs in its system. While I didn’t hate it as much as I did with the likes of “Coffee & Kareem” and even “Jexi”, I would say that this is Ben Falcone’s worst film since his directorial debut, “Tammy”, back in 2014. With its boring plot, mediocre characters, weak humor, and an unsatisfying script, this film will make certain people swear off technology for a while. It’s a good thing that the studio decided to release it on HBO Max instead of in the theater so that people can watch it at home for free without complaining about wasting their money on a “bad film”. Although it won’t stop them from complaining about wasting their time watching a bad film. Can’t win them all, I guess. If you’re a fan of McCarthy’s other works, you should be fine watching it once. If not, then you’re better off watching the Fresh Prince reunion special.