A combination of comedy sci-fi apocalypse and a glam up romantic comedy, Superintelligence ends up as a fairly tonally inconsistent mash up of two disparate genres into a single film. There are some laughs in here in unexpected spots, but the irritating part is the sci-fi comedy AI disaster movie is much more interesting than the romantic comedy that is consistently enforced upon it. Still, the few moments of quips and unique twists make the movie not entirely awful, just a movie that is confused about what it wants to be.
Carol (Melissa McCarthy) is in between jobs and looking for love when one day her phone rings with a mysterious caller, and then her clock radio and TV starts talking to her. It turns out that Carol has been selected by a computer Super Intelligence to be their Guinea pig for studying humanity. Since the AI wants to make it easier on Carol, he takes on the voice of her favourite talk show host James Corden (and sometimes pops up on monitors too). He wants to learn about humanity through her and if in 3 days he decides humanity is good, he’ll solve all of Earth’s problems, if he decides humans are evil, he’ll wipe out the planet. Oddly, the AI believes the best way to examine this is to have Carol reunite with her ex, George (Bobby Cannavale). Carol tells her best buddy, Microsoft computer programmer Dennis (Brain Tyree Henry) about the AI and he gets the government involved to stop the it. But strangely all of this depends on if Carol gets along on a date with her ex.
It is disappointing that the AI entity is interested in the outcome of Carol’s romantic woes and somehow hinges the entire fate of humanity upon it. The scenes where the Super Intelligence is talking about its plans for humanity as it casually floats the notion of destroying all of civilization are good for dark sci-fi laughs. Yet the AI acting as the romantic comedy best friend role clashes loudly with the sci-fi stuff. Cannavale and McCarthy elevate the rote romantic portions of the script as they have very good chemistry portraying two former partners who are hesitantly trying to reconnect after a few years. It just seems like a step down from the sci-fi comedy as they have meet cute moments or when they wax nostalgic about their previous relationship. Their romance is integrated into the AI plot so there’s no way to ignore it.
Surprisingly, probably one of the best things about the movie is Corden’s performance as Super Intelligence. His generally genial line deliveries makes the little twists and condescending bits that come from the AI land really well. The best thing about Super Intelligence is that he basically sees through everyone in an instant. Also, sometimes Corden pops up as the AI visual representation which leads to some fun gags, like when a video screen advertisement has James Corden promoting a drink then Corden the AI snaps at a customer to put it away.
The movie is at its best when its playing with sci-fi tropes. When Super Intelligence proclaims to a gaggle of military leaders that he has taken over the Earth one immediately takes a knee bowing to its superiority, completely selling out humanity in a second. The reveal that Henry’s Dennis works for Microsoft is heavy handed as he is introduced at the Microsoft corporate office with Microsoft logos all over the place; there was definitely a product placement deal going on there. Henry has a few funny lines, like when he and his crew try to figure out what the AI is or when he’s all nervous meeting the President. Probably the best side characters are the two agents following Carol played by Sam Richardson and the movie’s director, Ben Falcone. They have some great asides, like when they’re monitoring Carol and George and say it’s a nice change of pace from serial killers and Russian mobsters, or when the AI speaks to them and keeps going off about Law & Order complete with the ba-bong noise.
The movie is full of little asides that seem like on set improvisations that director Falcone left in and while some of them work, a lot of them tend to drag out the pace of scenes. Scenes often twist like when Super Intelligence goes from cordial to menacing, its like having a direct line of dialogue with a somewhat chattier Skynet. The sub plot about how the world is trying to take out Super Intelligence has an interesting take on rolling black outs and the government operating from a room full of analog typewriter technology, which is a cool visual but not much else. Strangely, the script really thinks the romantic plot is more compelling, which it never is.
Superintelligence has some good components of a sci-fi conspiracy parody with rapid fire throwaway lines that often run headfirst into a killjoy romantic plot. Just about when something cool with AI is about to happen, it turns around and talks about relationship woes. The movie keeps getting in its own way from taking off into something really fun.
Director: Steve Mallory
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, James Corden and Bobby Cannavale.