For a shameless Tesla commercial masquerading as a movie featuring James Corden as a civilisation-threatening super-powerful A.I., “Superintelligence” isn’t anywhere near as bad as you may be expecting. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Bobby Cannavale, it’s a cinematic curiosity which seems almost deliberately designed to be cross-compatible with any genre you might want to apply to it. Director Ben Falcone decides that the best direction is a sci-fi romantic comedy but time and time again, there’s the nagging suspicion it might have worked even better as an apocalyptic techno-thriller.
When an artificial intelligence accidentally achieves consciousness, it decides to study an average human being to decide what should be done about the state of the world and chooses Carol Peters (McCarthy) as its test subject, adopting the voice and persona of her favourite TV personality, somewhat unbelievably James Corden. With the fate of the entire world hanging in the balance, it’s up to Carol to prove the case for humanity as the A.I. tries to choose between saving, enslaving or destroying mankind.
There’s always a sense when McCarthy’s appearing in a Ben Falcone (her real-life husband) directed film that she’s a little too indulged when she wants to goof around with her particular brand of comedy schtick but that’s thankfully not the case with “Superintelligence” where, by her usual standards, the ongoing under-the-breath workshopping of alternative lines is kept to a minimum. Instead, she plays the role almost straight, eschewing the indignity of her usual slapstick for a slightly more sophisticated comic angle. It helps too, because with the film always tip-toeing along the edge of being a thriller, a broader comic approach could have brought everything crashing down.
As it is, it’s a pleasantly diverting comic look at American society’s foibles through a particularly Pacific North-West perspective and embellished by product placement for several tech brands, not least of all Microsoft and the forementioned Tesla.
Corden, too, is at his least offputting here and aside from the one or two gratuitous physical cameos as ‘himself’, does solid work as the A.I. although the role could have been played by nearly anyone, as evidenced by the brief interludes where Octavia Spencer and even the voice of K.I.T.T. himself, William Daniels take the reigns.
Frothy, fun and benefitting from a surprisingly sweet chemistry between McCarthy and Cannavale, “Superintelligence” is more fun than most of the other ‘Singularity’ movies from the past few years and better than the knock-off “Her” that you might have been tempted to dismiss as “Oh…him.”