A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Superintelligence is a comedy about a sophisticated, all-powerful artificial intelligence (AI) system that chooses a perfectly "average" woman, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), to test as an example of whether humanity should be saved, enslaved, or destroyed. The AI (which uses the voice of real-life comedian/talk show host James Corden) tasks her with reconciling with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale), in order to prove that humans are capable of love and redemption. Iffy language is minimal ("what the hell," "Badunkadunk"), but there's some drinking and an implied love scene (silhouettes shown through closed blinds), as well as kissing. Expect lots of McCarthy's signature pratfalls and physical comedy -- other than that, violent/scary content consists of the AI's threat of mass destruction. Ultimately, though, the movie has themes of empathy, compassion, and gratitude.
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What's the story?
SUPERINTELLIGENCE follows Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), an out-of-work Seattle woman who spends her time volunteering for various charitable organizations. One morning the appliances in her home start speaking to her in the voice of her favorite celebrity, James Corden. He explains -- through her television, phone, rice cooker, toaster oven, etc. -- that he's an all-knowing, all-powerful artificial intelligence, a Superintelligence, who selected her as an example of a "normal" human. He wants her to help him decide whether to save, enslave, or destroy humanity: The test she must pass is getting back together with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale), in three days. But George, as thrilled as he is to see Carol again, has imminent plans to move to Ireland. If Carol can't get him to stay, Superintelligence will punish all of humanity. Meanwhile, Carol tells her best friend, Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), a coder for Microsoft, about the situation, and the government enlists him to help them draft a plan to stop the Superintelligence's dangerous plans.
Is it any good?
McCarthy's charm and comedic gifts make this otherwise serviceable end-of-the-world comedy worth watching, but it works much better as an unconventional romcom than a compelling thriller. There's arguably more romance in Superintelligence than in most of McCarthy's comedies, and her scenes with the endearing Cannavale are sweet and natural (unsurprising, since the two are friends and former co-stars). Corden is a convincing pick as the AI voice (it picks the voice that will be most calming for each person). Other notable performers include Jean Smart, who's underused as the president of the United States, and director (and McCarthy's husband) Ben Falcone and Sam Richardson as slightly bumbling intelligence agents.
Despite the talented cast, the screenplay isn't exactly inspired, and the entire premise is underwhelming and confusing (not in the too-difficult-to-follow way, but in the "could this really be all the AI wants?" way). Sure, it's fun to watch Carol get a Pretty Woman-level makeover, since the AI immediately turns her into a multimillionaire with a new penthouse apartment, a self-driving Tesla, and a boutique wardrobe. But the heart comes from her reunion and reconnection with George, a "tall, tan, and tenured" professor who's headed to a Trinity College appointment. The movie's tone is uneven, as the potential for peril never feels immediate, and the political aspects are definitely underdeveloped and played for laughs. Still, for all its flaws, it's always a pleasure for fans to witness McCarthy's gift for physical comedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Superintelligence is a twist on the genre of "end of the world" dramedies. How does this one compare? Which are your favorite?
What does the Superintelligence learn about humanity? What is the lesson about "ordinary" people making an extraordinary difference?
- In theaters: November 26, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: November 26, 2020
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Jean Smart
- Director: Ben Falcone
- Studio: HBO Max
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some suggestive material, language and thematic elements
- Last updated: September 8, 2021
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