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'Superintelligence' review: Melissa McCarthy movie more like a bad sitcom

Bobby Cannavale and Melissa McCarthy in HBO MaX's

Bobby Cannavale and Melissa McCarthy in HBO MaX's "Superintelligence."   Credit: HBO MAX/Hopper Stone

MOVIE "Superintelligence"

WHERE Streaming on HBO Max

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone team up again with "Superintelligence," the fourth movie she has starred in that Falcone has directed. If you simply could not get enough of "Tammy," or "The Boss," or "Life of the Party," you know what you're in for here.

McCarthy plays Carol Peters, a down-on-her-luck Seattle woman who was once a bigshot corporate type. Her life changes in a terrifying way when she is chosen by an omnipresent technological force called Super Intelligence, which sounds and looks like James Corden, to be the person studied as a prototype for humanity while this entity weighs whether to wipe everyone out and take over the world.

"Superintelligence," written by Steve Mallory and co-starring Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jean Smart and Falcone himself, is now streaming on HBO Max.

MY SAY This is the rare high-concept comedy in which the concept has some actual promise. We have all had our lives subsumed by the omnipresence of technology, and the story of the world collectively facing an invisible deadly threat has extra obvious relevance in 2020.

Of course, this movie exhibits no interest in seriously examining any of this. It has not a shred of wit or edge or depth, but instead utilizes the premise as little more than a superficial cover for a lightweight romantic comedy with some run-of-the-mill action tacked on for good measure.

Melissa McCarthy is such a wonderful actor, gifted with such a strong screen presence and keen grasp for how to mix comic and tragic touches in even a single moment, that it remains a shame that she keeps doing humorless and desperate movies like this.

There is a reason she's been nominated for two Oscars, won two Emmys and generally remains quite highly regarded despite having made one mediocre comedy after another. Her presence in a movie guarantees that at least one character will be played with conviction and depth.

But she cannot fix soulless screenwriting or directing that appears to have been lifted into the present day straight out of a bad '90s movie you might find at the bottom of the barrel on Netflix or Disney+.

The Super Intelligence, the greatest and most powerful being the universe has ever encountered, an exemplification of our collective hubris, exists here solely to make Carol feel better about herself and to nudge her toward a reunion with her ex-boyfriend George (Cannavale).

You would think there might be more to accomplish in the run-up to potentially destroying humanity than being sure Carol and George get tickets to a private box at a Seattle Mariners game or reservations at a posh restaurant.

Corden, as himself, plays the Super Intelligence because it takes the form of Carol's favorite celebrity. If you wanted to make this entity seem as innocuous as possible, thereby neutering any hope of the movie offering any sort of drama, you could not have made a better casting decision.

In Falcone's hands, the movie plays exactly like a sitcom. The most significant scene in the picture is the meet cute reunion between Carol and George in a Fresh Market. The government officials fighting back against the Super Intelligence are one-dimensional stereotypes.

The jokes could not be more flat — much is made of McCarthy kicking an agent in the chest, for example — and the Seattle of "Superintelligence" feels like a Hollywood back lot, rather than a major metropolitan area under siege from an existential terror.

BOTTOM LINE Melissa McCarthy is truly wonderful, one of the best actors around, and we wish she would stop making bad comedies.

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