Sigh. Another British institution who doesn’t do much for this critic is James Corden, who came to the public eye as part of the rep company of teenagers featured in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, which also launched Dominic Cooper and Russell Tovey. A thoughtful and funny evocation of the education system in action, Bennett’s play made for an excellent film, but allowed the genie to get out of the bottle re Corden, and the world has been a substantially worse place since, from homophobic football banter on his ITV show to last year’s hideously shrill work on The Prom.
So when Corden is revealed as the favourite celebrity of unemployed loser Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), it’s one big sigh if you’ve been following Corden’s rise and rise through cameos in popular films like Yesterday and his Car Pool Karaoke series. Carol’s luck changes when she realises that an AI is attempting to communicate with her via Corden; acting in a friendly fashion initially, Super Intelligence erases her debts and drops cash in her bank account, and inspires her to get back with her ex George (Bobby Cannavale). But Super Intelligence also wants to rule/destroy the world, and only Carol can save it by demonstrating the power of good in the world.
Although her films are generally popular, there seems to be a genuine unwillingness to take McCarthy’s work seriously, despite a recent awards season success in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Her fourth collaboration with husband Ben Falcone, however, broke a string of winners for the couple at the box office, despite offering a similarly lightweight confection. Superintelligence offers plenty of opportunities for McCarthy to clown, but there’s no-one to play off apart from Corden, whose smug, self-regarding delivery doesn’t add much here.
Unceremoniously dumped without any fanfare in the UK’s busy streaming wars, Superintelligence is a watchable, sunny film with a simple idea to mine that any child would enjoy. But McCarthy’s best work (Bridesmaids, The Heat, The Boss) showed that she’d got the ability to carry a film in unexpected directions, and it’s frustrating to see her reduced to some fruitless energy here. Still, it’s better than Thunder Force, which features most of the same cast and a few of the same jokes; McCarthy has a got real talent, but needs to refresh her shtick soon.