Everything you need to know about Superintelligence is in the name of the Mexican restaurant where Carol (Melissa McCarthy) and George (Bobby Cannavale), her one that got away, share a meal. Sure, Mas o Menos might describe margaritas, mariachis and possibly treacherous guacamole. But the colloquial Spanish for “so-so” comes closest to a self-own for McCarthy and company, which once again includes her husband, Ben Falcone, directing as he did for Tammy, The Boss and Life of the Party — all films from the last six years that might as well be 16.
Superintelligence is skipping theaters for the HBOMax streaming service (where it’s now available). It’s a bottom-line blessing for Warner Brothers, given empty auditoriums that would’ve certainly awaited it even without a pandemic. And it plants McCarthy squarely in Adam Sandler territory — slapping together at-best passable fare as streaming-service background noise and tapping the side of her nose when she’s doing something truly engaging a la Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Superintelligence is to transcend the typical McCarthy memory-hole, its comparatively high concept will be the reason why: Carol is a one-time internet whiz who left that industry to pursue loftier civic goals and, oddly, seems vexed by any form of contemporary technology. When the titular A.I. spikes into a sentience a la Skynet but sassy, it deems Carol to be the epitome of an average human. How she responds to Superintelligence over the next few days will determine what it does to the human race — leave it be, enslave it or eradicate it. Naturally, all of this comes down to her feelings for George, a professor about to relocate from Seattle to Ireland.
There are the usual government interlopers: Falcone and Sam Richardson (VEEP) as a pair of G-men on Carol’s tail; a Hillary Clinton stand-in POTUS (Jean Smart); Brain Tyree Henry (Atlanta) as Denny, a Microsoft hotshot and Carol’s friend who becomes the official tech advisor once Superintelligence makes itself known to him. But aside from a half-hearted pivot into a potentially hellish third act, Superintelligence is a mostly harmless, not-entirely-charmless romcom with McCarthy and Cannavale (whose unclenching is welcome albeit in the service of pure airlessness).
Oh, and a generally unfunny ego stroke for James Corden, whose voice Superintelligence assumes because it know it will calm Carol down. Get ready for a barrage of bits about Corden’s gently lilting voice or his underrated talent. This also counts as my own first episode of Carpool Karaoke, I guess; given the prevalence of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week,” it will also be my last. (Given chatter about Corden as a behind-the-scenes tyrant, perhaps the only funny gag involving him is that if Corden seems like he’s being nice to you … look out.)
There’s a more sinister version of Superintelligence where the title character pushes Carol to her decisions through surreptitious data mining and retargeting. There’s a more sensible one where Superintelligence doesn’t automatically give this “average” woman $10 million, a self-driving Tesla and a charitable foundation in her name. There’s certainly a funnier version from someone who didn’t co-write The Boss. None of these would hit the home screen of HBOMax for a week until the algorithmic equivalent of being shuffled off to Buffalo.
Mas o menos. Nothing more.