TL;DR – an artificial intelligence achieves consciousness and seeks to decide whether it should save, enslave, or destroy humanity. It chooses Carol, an ordinary woman, to learn about humans and gives her three days to convince it that humans deserve to be saved.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) was working as a corporate executive, but unhappy in her job, she now does different part time work while searching for fulfilment in her life. She broke up with her boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale) of three years, to climb the career ladder and put her professional aspirations first. And, of course, she now regrets it.
One morning, she wakes up and discovers that all the electronic equipment in her apartment is able to communicate to her because an artificial intelligence known as ‘Superintelligence’ (voiced by James Corden) has become aware and seeks to learn about humans. It needs an average baseline guinea pig and chooses Carol for her averageness and embarks on studying her interactions with others in order to determine whether to wipe out humanity or save it.
Of course when the NSA discovers the existence of the superintelligence, they freak out and get the president’s permission to execute a plan involving blacking-out the entire world and forcing the superintelligence into a data server outside Seattle. They, of course, obtain cooperation from all the other countries faster than a kettle boiling with apparently no need to provide evidence of the superintelligence’s existence or its desire to make humans extinct (yeah, don’t think about this too much).
For an action romantic comedy, Superintelligence has the potential to explore hard truths in humorous or satirical ways. In this day and age, where people connect through Tinder, social networks, and other dating websites/apps, there is much that could have been said. For example, biting commentary around relationship compatibility through computer algorithms, our reliance on Instagram likes, the unreality of Facebook posts, or any number of ways we now rely on technology to somehow achieve happiness.
Instead, what we get is surface level comedy such as Carol brushing her teeth with an electric toothbrush, and the Superintelligence telling her to brush in circles rather than up and down because it can sense how she brushes by being ‘inside’ the toothbrush. And also reminding her to floss.
We are also meant to chuckle when the NSA executes their plan for the black-out and relying on typewriters, carrier pigeons, and table length paper maps of the world (can’t have the Superintelligence know what they are up to even though it has ‘eyes’ in every electronic device in every part of the world and would not be suspicious at all seeing the Government bunker down in a cabin that has a Faraday cage blocking all electromagnetic fields).
The deepest question the Superintelligence asks is what would Carol do if the world was ending in three days. And that leads to her revealing George and her desire to reconcile with him. What follows are scenes where the Superintelligence helps her reconnect and doing things like pretending the Tesla she drives malfunctions forcing her to go up to George’s house after their non-date (that is really a date) to ask if she can use his phone to call a cab.
Yes, it is all pretty silly and sweet and thus missing out on saying anything of real meaning about the world we live in today. A shame because the cast is very good especially McCarthy who does what she can with the limited material. Even if Director Ben Falcone intended this film to be light and airy, the screen writers could have injected a modicum of insight through the dialogue between Carol and George. I was not expecting relationship insights on the level of When Harry Met Sally but when you write a romantic comedy story, the bite is in the two characters interactions with each other and some sort of conflict that drives them apart making them realise they should be together. The ‘conflict’ between Carol and George is simply that George is leaving for Ireland in three days and Carol does not want him to leave. It is all tepid and no heat. The pair not helped by a script that falls way short on delivering comedy and while you feel the attraction between the pair, there is not a sense of any real internal conflict. George wants Carol, Carol wants George, Carol knows the world might end in three days, George is oblivious to this and wants to fly her over to Ireland after a few months once he has settled.
Potential wasted, this film does not reach the lofty heights of its title.
4 out of 10