[Screen It]


(2020) (Melissa McCarthy, James Corden) (PG)

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Comedy: A woman is forced to try to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend by AI programming that's become sentient and will determine humankind's future based on studying her.

At one point, Carol Peters (MELISSA McCARTHY) was a rising star in the online world, but then her relationship with her boyfriend, George Churchill (BOBBY CANNAVALE), ended and now she's been drifting from one non-profit job to another. Her programmer friend, Dennis Caruso (BRIAN TYREE HENRY), tries to help her by getting her job interviews with start-ups, but none of that has worked out. Her life changes, however, when some AI programming becomes sentient, names itself Super Intelligence, and decides to use Carol as its litmus test about humans.

Presenting itself to her via any connected electronic devices as the voice and occasional video image of James Corden (JAMES CORDEN), Super Intelligence informs Carol that based on its study of her, it will either save mankind, enslave humanity to save it from itself, or destroy all of humankind to start over.

Carol is surprised even more when she learns that Super Intelligence will base his decision on trying to get Carol and George back together as a couple. From that point on, and after confiding in Dennis who goes to the Feds to inform them, she follows Super Intelligence's orders and has her feelings for George rekindled despite him leaving for a new job in Ireland in just a few days.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

While he's certainly not the first person to raise the warning and likely won't be the last, Elon Musk is clearly one of the most prominent and better-informed people to talk about the not-too-distant dangers of allowing artificial intelligence to evolve unchecked. He's even gone so far as to state that AI could become "an immortal dictator from which we would never escape.''

Of course, Hollywood has known this for decades, at least in terms of creative sci-fi. Sometimes that comes in the form of robots and androids, and at others, it's an interconnected series of computers such as that found in "The Matrix," or Skynet in the "Terminator" movies.

And with others it's a singular computer that makes quite the impression on viewers, be that Proteus IV in the barely seen "Demon Seed" (which was way ahead of its time warning about home automation) or the game playing WOPR in "Warm Games."

The most recognizable one arguably is HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey," with lines such as "I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you" and "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that" delivered in a deliberate but increasingly troubling way by actor Douglas Rain.

Since it's been a while since that and those other films were released, we're certainly due for another, and getting just the right voice clearly should be one of the top priorities. I know, why don't we pick James Corden? You mean the goofy late-night talk show host? The guy who does Carpool Karaoke?


Well, ladies and gents, that's who voices the newly sentient AI programming in "Superintelligence" where Corden provides the voice for -- and occasionally the visual representation of -- a computer system that's decided to base its decision on whether to save, enslave or kill all of humanity on a study of an average American woman. Who's played by Melissa McCarthy. Which means we're all doomed.

I jest, of course, and unlike its many predecessors, this film from writer Steve Mallory and director Ben Falcone (who has a small, recurring part as an NSA agent) is obviously designed as a comedy, and a goofy one at that. The tone is noted right from the get-go when McCarthy's character, Carol Peters, tries to land a job at a tech start-up called Badunkadunk where its sole, unhidden purpose is to get its users some, well, badunkadunk.

Not surprisingly, that doesn't go over well that. Sadly, that also applies to the film and its attempts to be thought-provoking, engaging, or funny. With a bit in that interview featuring McCarthy repeatedly launching herself into a huge bean bag chair in hopes of hitting the stable landing sweet spot but failing, that sets the tone for the film that simply didn't work for me.

For reasons unknown, Super Intelligence has pegged Carol and whether she can get back together with her ex-boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) as its litmus test regarding the aforementioned decision regarding whether humanity continues as we know it or not.

She's initially freaked out, but after some quick demos (and the explanation that Corden's voice and occasional physical representation on-screen would calm her) she realizes she has no choice, although she does inform her Microsoft programmer friend (Brian Tyree Henry) who briefly hears Super Intelligence in the voice of Octavia Spencer. He informs the Feds which does absolutely nothing for the story, which also holds true for the introduction and then only occasional use of two NSA agents (one played by Falcone) tasked with staking out Carol.

The bits where Carol is forced to try to get back with George work slightly better. But that's not saying much as they'd only come off as lame and predictable had they appeared in a rom-com sans the "I haven't decided if I'm saving or killing you" artificial intelligence but with the obligatory trying on clothes montage that, yes, is included here.

A few viewers might chuckle from the inclusion of bits from "Knight Rider," "Law & Order" and "War Games," but the latter only serves to remind everyone how good AI-based films can be, with or without laughs.

Alas, this offering also arrives without much in the way of the latter and ends up being instantly forgettable. Maybe Elon Musk was wrong, for if this is what we can expect from "Superintelligence," you can go about your day and simply ignore it. The film rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed November 21, 2020 / Posted November 25, 2020

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