Superintelligence begins as a promising Melissa McCarthy vehicle. 40 minutes in it abandons its clever premise to become a standard romantic-comedy. As talented as McCarthy is, it’s hard to maintain interest in a stereotypical movie when there was a more clever comedy sitting right there.
The first third of ‘Superintelligence’ is great
Carol Peters (McCarthy) is looking for a new job. She does some great slapstick with a beanbag chair at an interview. Then her household appliances start talking to her. Superintelligence has become sentient and uses the voice of James Corden because Carol is a fan. McCarthy beats her talking appliances in some more brilliant slapstick before she resigns herself to Superintelligence’s powers.
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Superintelligence and Carol mess with each other and it’s fun. It becomes especially impressive when you realize it’s all McCarthy performing with someone reading off camera dialogue. Corden would record his lines much later, but you’d never know McCarthy wasn’t immersed in this world.
Superintelligence starts to wane when it calls out its own references. A Knight Rider joke sabotages itself, and so does a War Games joke. Even saying “Everyone knows that’s from War Games” still assumes the viewer doesn’t really know War Games, in which case why reference it? They could just as easily do HAL or Skynet, but at this point the movie is still mining good comedy out of technology.
Where ‘Superintelligence’ loses you
Superintelligence wants to get Carol back together with George (Bobby Cannavale) to study human interaction. As a clever technology comedy, Superintelligence had something to say about the place of devices in modern society. As a rom-com, it’s just contrived, no matter how much chemistry McCarthy and Cannavale may have. Carol and George go on a long date where Superintelligence goes silent and it really tunes the audience out of the film, too.
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Meanwhile, Superintelligence has threatened to destroy humanity, so Carol’s friend Dennis (Bryan Tyree Henry) briefs the President (Jean Smart). They keep cutting back to the Situation Room but it just kills time. Even if you were worried a Melissa McCarthy comedy would end in apocalypse, and you shouldn’t be, there are points where the film even forgets Superintelligence is plotting mass destruction.
Melissa McCarthy can’t save this one
Superintelligence tries to work its way back but it’s too far gone. McCarthy dancing with her car is sweet. A callback to an earlier Law & Order gag would be funny if you’d laughed once in the prior hour. Not every movie needs a romantic subplot. In fact, Carol teaching Superintelligence that independence can be as valuable as romantic couplings could be even more poignant.
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McCarthy just has too far uphill to climb once Superintelligence gives up being the techno-comedy. She and Cannavale could probably sell a movie about old flames reconnecting, but not if you promise McCarthy vs. James Cordon as an app first.