Film

Review: The Human Race Fails to Impress AI, or Audiences, in Superintelligence

For those keeping score, the new Melissa McCarthy vehicle Superintelligence is the fourth horrible film directed by her husband, Ben Falcone—after Tammy, The Boss and Life of the Party. I suppose we should be grateful that he didn’t also write this one (as he has some of the others), but somehow that doesn’t seem to make the latest any better. In fact, it’s godawful. (And for those really into pain: the husband-and-wife torture machine already have a fifth movie—Thunder Force—in the can, and sweet Jesus, Falcone wrote this one; 2021 is already looking shitty.)

Superintelligence

Image courtesy of HBO Max

Please allow me to describe to you how supremely stupid a movie titled Superintelligence can be. The self-described “average person” Carol Peters (McCarthy) arrives home one day to find that her appliances, TV and phone are all talking to her in the voice of James Corden. It’s a voice that was specifically selected by a super-powerful AI because Corden is Carol’s favorite person, which immediately makes you distrust her. (To her best friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), the AI sounds like Octavia Spencer, an admittedly better choice.) The Superintelligence lets Carol know that it will be observing her for a few days to better understand human behavior and what motivates people to make big decisions/changes in their lives. She doesn’t even have to keep the AI a secret from anyone, as long as no one tries to unplug it.

The AI supplies Carol with a new car, home, and quite a lot of money to give her the option of making big choices without financial concern, and I’m not sure why since many humans make lots of decisions based on available funds. But before long, it asks her what one thing she really wants to do with her life, and she mentions reconnecting with ex-boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale). The AI locates him and arranges for them to bump into each other so Carol can have a shot at a reunion and possibly more. It turns out that in a few short days, George is moving to Ireland for a year or so for work, so Carol has to decide whether to pursue this or let it go, and the Superintelligence is baffled that she even has to think about it.

Eventually, the AI reveals that its true intention is to use its observations to decide whether to take over the planet and possibly destroy its human population. It doesn’t grasp the subtle reasons humans don’t always simply act in their own self-interest, and the more Carol gives up on her dreams (work, personal, etc.), the more the AI seems determined that humanity doesn’t stand a chance. On the surface, this setup doesn’t sound so bad, but the execution is downright painful at times. For one, the AI disappears for huge sections of this movie while two things happen: Carol basically enters a rom-com with George, and a subplot begins involving the U.S. government and military attempting to cut off the AI from doing any real damage. Jean Smart plays the U.S. President (I would absolutely vote for her), with Falcone and Sam Richardson playing agents assigned to spy on Carol and assess whether the AI knows what the government is up to.

Superintelligence certainly features a who’s who of very funny people (add to the list Sarah Baker and Karan Soni), but with material this aggressively flaccid, there’s nothing for them to do but throw as much of their strengths into these poorly written parts and hope their performances are strong enough to help us forget they’re even in this junk. Without meaning to be cruel about this film, I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t laugh once; I may have smiled one or two times but I wouldn’t admit that under oath. You can’t make a comedy with no laughs; and you can’t make a movie called Superintelligence in which everybody in it, including the all-powerful AI, does such pointless and idiotic things. Never once did I concern myself with whether this particular version of Earth was going to perish (actually, I was rooting for it a bit), and I think most of the people in this story aren’t worth saving. I’ll admit, I was rooting for armageddon…

This film was supposed to come out in theaters right around now, and I think I would have been beyond angry if I’d paid money to see this. Skip it and pray for the next McCarthy film that doesn’t involve her husband.

The film is available now on HBO Max.

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