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film review

In Superintelligence, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) quits her job and rashly breaks up with her boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale) to live a life of quiet nothingness in Seattle.Hopper Stone/HBO Max / Crave

  • Superintelligence
  • Directed by Ben Falcone
  • Written by Steve Mallory
  • Starring Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale and James Corden
  • Classification PG; 110 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars


It is tempting to say Melissa McCarthy’s reign over the comedy landscape is nearing its end. Her last few big-screen comedies, 2018′s double shot of The Happytime Murders and Life of the Party, were duds. And her latest, this week’s Superintelligence, is skipping theatres altogether for the safer-from-scrutiny environs of HBO Max. (This isn’t due to some late-shifting pandemic strategy, either; the decision to go direct-to-streaming was made in October, 2019.) If the era of what I’m dubbing McCarthedy is indeed the case, oh well, at least the performer enjoyed a good run, and has a bright future ahead of her in the dramatic sphere, as Can You Ever Forgive Me? proved two years ago.

But, wait, scratch that. Despite all cynical assumptions to the contrary, Superintelligence arrives this week as a comedy with actual charm, wit and, yes, laughs. It is far from McCarthy’s high-tier trifecta of Bridesmaids, Spy and The Heat (all not-coincidentally directed by Paul Feig), but it works more often than it doesn’t. And in these cold winter months of 2020 when we could all use a reminder of the appeal of genuine star power, that is just enough.

Of the three types McCarthy usual plays – the wallflower (Life of the Party, Spy, Ghostbusters), the no-nonsense straight-shooter (St. Vincent, The Happytime Murders, This Is 40), and the raucous wildcard (Bridesmaids, Tammy, Identity Thief, The Heat, The Boss) – Superintelligence places her firmly in that first empathetic shy-but-kind territory.

Melissa McCarthy seems genuinely happy to be in the movie, and her enthusiasm infects the stellar supporting cast.Hopper Stone/HBO Max / Crave

After quitting her executive-level job and rashly breaking up with her boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale), McCarthy’s perfectly blandly named Carol Peters lives a life of quiet nothingness in Seattle. But then, as these things happen, an artificial superintelligence with the voice of James Corden targets her in an experiment determining whether the human race should live or die. Now, it’s up to Carol and the U.S. government (led by Jean Smart’s Hillary-esque president) to save the world, and maybe her relationship with George, too.

It is all, of course, ridiculous – but everyone involved has self-aware fun with the silliness, resulting in a fast-paced barrage of sharp gags. McCarthy seems genuinely happy to be here, and her enthusiasm infects the stellar supporting cast, which includes scene-stealers Brian Tyree Henry, Sam Richardson and, in one perfect cameo that’s already been spoiled by the trailer, Octavia Spencer.

And after making three of McCarthy’s worst films (Tammy, The Boss, Life of the Party), director Ben Falcone has finally found a way to balance his star’s (and real-life wife’s) intensely likeable energy with a bouncy, vibrant comic rhythm. May their marriage stay strong. And may McCarthy’s reign, on the big screen or small, continue.

Superintelligence is available to stream on Crave starting Nov. 26

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