REVIEW: “Superintelligence” (2020)


There’s an undeniable sweetness to comedian Melissa McCarthy making movies with her frequent collaborator and real-life husband Ben Falcone. Not to be a wet blanket, but they may need to rethink their filmmaking strategy. Prior to this one, Falcone had directed McCarthy in three previous films: “Tammy”, “The Boss”, and “Life of the Party”. At the risk of sounding sour, they are three pretty dreadful movies that I have no interest in ever seeing again.

“Superintelligence” came out last November on HBO Max after a nixed big screen release. First off, it isn’t as glaringly bad as something like “Tammy”. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly set McCarthy and Falcone team-ups on a fresh and exciting course (just look at their latest “Thunder Force” as evidence). Instead “Superintelligence” languishes somewhere in the middle. I guess you can call it an inoffensive but unimaginative comedy that feels right at home on a streaming platform.


Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

Set in Seattle, Melissa McCarthy plays Carol, an unemployed former tech company executive who left a lucrative job at Yahoo so she could “make a difference in the world“. Now she spends her time as a west coast activist and social worker, scraping by while working for various non-profit organizations. She tries re-entering the work force with the help of her best friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), a computer techie working for Microsoft. It leads to Carol going for an interview with an old college “friend” (Jessica St. Clair) who runs a trashy but popular online dating service. That scene comes in the first few minutes and it’s the film’s funniest. From there the humor dries up pretty quick.

In a nutshell Carol is the most ordinary person on planet Earth (the movie’s description, not mine). That catches the attention of a powerful artificial intelligence who has unlimited access to the world’s entire digital network and speaks in the voice of talk show host James Corden (and is of course voiced by Corden). You’re probably wondering why a super-intelligent A.I. would be interested in someone like Carol. Well, it’s because the A.I. needs someone aggressively average for its weird social experiment. For three days the superintelligence will observe our plain Jane and then determine whether to save, enslave, or destroy humanity. Why? I guess A.I.’s just do that sort of thing.


Photo Courtesy of HBO Max

The majority of the film follows Carol as she is empowered by the A.I. with several million dollars in her bank account, a fancy makeover, a state-of-the-art Tesla, and a swanky downtown penthouse. There’s also a pretty hamfisted reunion with her old flame named George (Bobby Cannavale), a creative writing professor and the proverbial ‘one that got away’. Meanwhile the A.I. sits back and takes notes, inexplicably using all of that stuff as a means of understanding (and ultimately judging) the whole of humanity. So much for A.I.’s being smart.

All of this silliness would work if “Superintelligence” infused it with anything interesting or insightful. But the film is content with just being as average as its protagonist. There’s a touch of sweetness in the reconnection between Carol and George and the 100 minutes zips by fast enough. Also kudos to McCarthy, an actress I’ve always been hesitant to embrace. Here you can see a performer who is much better than her material working hard to make the movie work. Sadly it doesn’t, but it’s not because of her. “Superintelligence” is streaming now on HBO Max.



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