Superintelligence review: Love story marred by layers of slapstick

Length: 106 min
Director: Ben Falcone
Writer: Steve Mallory
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, James Corden, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jean Smart, Sam Richardson, Ben Falcone
Release details: On HBO Asia and HBO Go from 24 April

2 out of 5 stars

Melissa McCarthy teamed up with director (and husband) Ben Falcone for their fourth collaboration (the fifth is Netflix's Thunder Force) in Superintelligence, a comedy with the distinct flavour of their previous collabs such as Tammy, The Boss, and Life of The Party. If you liked the humour in those films, then Superintelligence is more of the same, just that it adds a little bit of a message about the dangers of technology. The film saw limited release in theatres in Australia and some European markets, but in Singapore, it's available only on HBO and HBO Go.

Superintelligence is a science fiction comedy about a woman who stumbles upon an all-powerful and snarky AI. While the AI seems helpful and aids in whatever she wants, it is secretly studying her for its own nefarious purposes. It's a clash of humanity and technology, and the victor will ultimately decide the course of the AI's actions.

Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) and Dennis Caruso (Brian Tyree Henry) in Superintelligence. (HBO)
Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) and Dennis Caruso (Brian Tyree Henry) in Superintelligence. (HBO)

As a comedy, some level of slapstick is expected — after all, humour comes in many varieties, and a good comedy appeals to many different tastes. But then it piles on the slapstick again and again, using Melissa McCarthy's size as the butt of many jokes, to the point that you start to feel a little sorry for her. There are also other forms of juvenile schoolyard humour in the film, but those jokes get dragged out when they should be snappy and punchy. The humour is generally in poor taste and middling, but you can see McCarthy trying to make the best of the situation.

In fact, she's not the only cast member who tries to make do with flaccid material. From Brian Tyree Henry to Jean Smart, all of the cast obviously have their talents wasted on this film (there's precious little that even the most talented comedian can do with lowbrow humour). It's a terrible pity too, especially since this film has an impressive lineup of comedians by any measure.

Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) in Superintelligence. (HBO)
Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) in Superintelligence. (HBO)

To add salt to the wound, there is actually a decent story underneath all the dredges of humour that's piled on top of it. It's an innocent and charming story of a girl who meets a boy and falls in love with him, and all the fears and insecurity and pain that comes with that. If only the movie didn't spend so much time trying to be funny (and failing miserably at it), we might actually have gotten a simple, but genuine love story out of it.

The AI, voiced by James Corden, who is given the rather on-the-nose name of Super Intelligence (hence the film's title), is also... not very intelligent. By now, film viewers would be savvy enough to know and expect certain types of behaviour from an omniscient robot mind. But Super Intelligence hardly comes across as intelligent, let alone super intelligent. He just seems to have access to many different types of tech, but never really exploits it to its fullest or does anything remotely interesting for an AI of its supposed calibre.

George Churchill (Bobby Cannavale) and Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) in Superintelligence. (HBO)
George Churchill (Bobby Cannavale) and Carol Vivian Peters (Melissa McCarthy) in Superintelligence. (HBO)

This makes for quite a wasted premise, since you'd be expecting some sort of profound message at the end of the film. We do get a message that's fairly standard, some hints of how technology can be dangerous, but that's as far as it goes. The saving grace is that we get have a female President character in the form of Jean Smart's President Monahan, although she's also played for laughs with some ageist jokes thrown in.

If Superintelligence weren't trying so hard to make you laugh, it might actually have made you shed a tear (or have some feelings) for the love story within. Unfortunately, it piled on the slapstick with unfunny digs at everyone's expense and wasted its premise. Not only that, the poor cast had their talents wasted as well.

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