Superintelligence movie review: Melissa McCarthy's rom-com could do with some intelligence

Superintelligence's utter confusion at locating itself as either a comedy or a thriller keeps being an utter disappointment

Poulomi Das April 09, 2021 11:18:04 IST

1/5

Ben Falcone’s Superintelligence rests on Melissa McCarthy being the “most average person on earth.” She’s Carol Peters, a middle-aged single, clumsy woman who gave up her high-paying job years ago, determined to focus her efforts on making the world a better place. Now, she lives a more selfless existence, counting out her days in volunteering at Seattle pet adoptions and worrying about anything but materialistic greed. 

If you’ve watched enough American rom-coms, you’ll easily garner that her choice of lifestyle invariably means she is also the kind of person whose dating life is almost non-existent, something that will be corrected through the course of the movie. And if you’ve watched enough movies, you’ll also realise that this is the kind of premise that might have stuck in the noughties but one that looks and feels awfully outdated and insipid in 2021. More importantly, this forgettable premise undermines McCarthy’s supremely gifted abilities, casting her in a role that requires none of her specificities and could have been portrayed by literally anyone.

Since her breakout Oscar-nominated role in Bridesmaids, McCarthy has consistently subverted expectations from a lead performance in whichever film she has starred in. Whether it is a comedic turn in Paul Feig’s The Spy or an intensely dramatic role in Marielle Heller’s underrated masterpiece, Can You Ever Forgive Me? A typical McCarthy performance can be characterised by how many layers they are to it – the actor infuses her alert physicality to evoke both laughs and dread effortlessly. That can’t be said about her turn or character in Superintelligence

The problem isn’t that Carol Peters seems to be the straightest role that McCarthy has played in a long time but more the fact that she is imagined in a way (Steve Mallory has written the film) that is devoid of any charm (the actress is credited as one of the producers). To my mind, the true mark of an incompetent film is when it thoroughly wastes the talents of a gifted actor. Superintelligence seems steadfast in its dedication to do just that from its very first frame. An opening sequence for instance involves a gag that revolves around drawing humour from McCarthy’s weight, which is even less funny than it sounds. 

The film’s needlessly convoluted plot doesn’t help matters either. It goes like this: An artificial intelligence (AI) wants to shadow Peters, the most average person on Earth, for three days and study her in order to be equipped with a greater understanding of humanity. In return, the AI who is voiced by James Corden if only to prompt a Carpool Karaoke reference, clears her student debt and transfers an exorbitant amount of money to her account. Naturally, this line of thinking leads to more questions than answers. 

For one, if the idea is to get a sense of the human psyche, why not go after a subject who is more interesting or maybe sinister? If that isn’t enough, Mallory’s script also overstuffs the film with an end-of-the-world conspiracy and a summer romance (Bobby Cannavale in a thankless role as the potential lover). Except, Falcone’s direction isn’t able to conjure up the necessary tension for the change of tone the same way it can’t bring alive any chemistry between any of the characters, most notably McCarthy and Cannavale. 

In that sense, it is painful to sit through Superintelligence beyond a point, simply because the film's utter confusion at locating itself as either a comedy or a thriller keeps being an utter disappointment. Even the staging of scenes, replete with repetitive information and inert dialogue, boasts no ambition that usually accompanies a feature-length film. The shots are as pedestrian as that of an online sketch and it’s not hard to find yourself wondering why Superintelligence, a possible outcome of a late night drunk idea, couldn’t have just been one. In any case, it is ironic that a film that has intelligence in its title doesn’t seem to possess any in its narrative.

Superintelligence is available on BookMyShow Stream. 

Rating: *

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