Superintelligence movie review: Dull sci-fi comedy stars Melissa McCarthy in a fairly straight role

Superintelligence (PG 106 minutes) One star

Superintelligence was not made with superintelligence. Nor does it contain much in the way of suspense, romance, wit or point. It's a pity, because the premise had potential and some of the actors are good - they simply aren't given much to work with or used very well.

Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) quit her corporate job a few years ago, disillusioned, and in her nice, ordinary way attempts to make the world a better place. At the start of the movie she blows an interview to work for a dating site (but given what it sounds like, you can't blame her).

She is understandably flabbergasted when her electronic devices start talking to her, first in a voice vaguely reminiscent of the calm menace of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then, to relax her, in the voice of James Corden. This is because Carol is a fan of the British TV show host and actor, who also pops up periodically on screens, once as himself, other times as a visual manifestation of this superintelligence.

Apparently superintelligent "James" (It's not Corden, only his voice but let's use the name for convenience) has enough power and connections to decide the fate of humankind and isn't sure whether to save it, enslave it or destroy it. "James" has selected Carol as an "ordinary" person to be its guinea pig: despite all its knowledge, this superintelligence still isn't sure what makes people tick and wants to spend the next three days studying her to decide what to do with, or to, them.

Such a scenario brings to mind someone's jokey capsule summary of Se7en -"Brad Pitt matches wits with a serial killer: we're all gonna die". But the unremarkable Carol isn't one of McCarthy's strong, outrageous, funny characters who might send us all to oblivion but would at least provide a fun time while doing so.

Scriptwriter Steve Mallory wrote some of the lesser McCarthy films and doesn't do any better here. Director Ben Falcone, who is, not coincidentally, McCarthy's husband and has directed some of those lesser movies, might have thought casting her against type as a conventional leading lady would be interesting. It isn't - not that she's bad, exactly, just bland. There's no sense of the pressure to save us all, even when government agents and the US president get involved.

"James" provides Carol with a huge bank deposit, a high-tech self-driving car, and other gifts and favours (which is odd, given it presumably wants to find out what she is like in her ordinary life). The woman who rejected the corporate world seems happy enough to benefit from this largesse, which might have some satirical bite if the filmmakers made something of it, but like many other ideas - the power of a sentient, omnipresent artificial intelligence, for example - it's not explored.

One thing Carol really wants to do is reconcile with George (Bobby Canavale), the nice-guy academic she broke up with some time ago. Cannavale is appealing but his role is dull.

The film seems aimed at Generation X audiences with ostensibly funny references to Knight Rider, WarGames and Law & Order's "da-DUM!" sting. But they're laboriously explained which kills whatever semblance of a joke was there. What we have here is a blend of high-tech sci-fi cautionary tale and romantic comedy with occasional vague gestures towards satire or parody. Superintelligence isn't thought-provoking, touching, tense or very funny: it just lumbers along until it ends. In fairness, there were a few laughs from the sparse Dendy audience I saw this with (but then, I wasn't sitting that far away from them).

Bobby Cannavale, centre, and Melissa McCarthy in Superintelligence. Picture: Supplied

Bobby Cannavale, centre, and Melissa McCarthy in Superintelligence. Picture: Supplied

This story Dull sci-fi comedy Superintelligence is a disappointing film first appeared on The Canberra Times.