MRespected two-time Oscar nominee Elissa McCarthy and hysterically hysterical comedic dynamo has a problem, a long-standing allegiance that takes undisputed talent into indisputably dubious territory time after time. His name is Ben Falcone: actor, writer, director and also her husband.
While he was cute enough to see him come to his side in Bridesmaids’ excellent Paul Feig trifecta, The Heat and Spy, he quickly got less cute when he pushed her to do something he is directing, a reliable filmmaker and uninteresting who masters art. to create almost deliberately little funny comedies centered on a star who deserves much better. There were a few scraps of vaguely fun physical humor to be found in their first collaboration, Tammy, which were all gone by the time they reunited again for The Boss, a film that is a certified masterpiece by comparison. to their next, the punitive. joyless back-to-school prank Life of the Party, a throwaway film series that turned him into a sort of albatross around his neck. One could naively have hoped that his groundbreaking dramatic work in Can You Ever Forgive Me would have brought about a much needed step back, a sort of reassessment, a removal from the dirt of a note he had peddled but unfortunately it is in. doubling, or rather tripling, with a release set just in time for Thanksgiving and two more on the way.
So before playing a superhero in one and Santa’s wife Margie in the other (yes, really), she takes on a megalomaniac Alexa in Superintelligence, a movie that actually isn’t quite as endless as it looks and not as bad as the similar theme. Jexi, the slightest praise that can be given to a film, but praise nonetheless. McCarthy is Carol, an average Joan, who left a high profile career in tech to focus on more philanthropic pursuits, a quest that also shattered her relationship. One day, her uneventful life receives an unlikely upgrade when contacted by a superintelligent, voiced by James Corden (the reason being that Carol is her biggest fan, one of the many reasons it’s difficult to never really like Carol). She was chosen to prove whether humanity is worth saving or not and she has only three days to prevent the end of the world.
There’s a definite uptick in ambition here with a lower, family-friendly rating and a wider reach, both with the sci-fi doomsday plot and a dive into more direct sentimentality, which doesn’t generally not part of Falcone’s work. But in an effort to reach a wider audience, there’s a smoothing out of McCarthy’s edges, often best exhibited in steamier, less constrained comedies that show off his ability to improvise and do whatever it takes to laugh, vanity be damned. She has a few more important moments here, like trying to gracefully land on a bean bag chair, but it’s mostly a rather ungrateful beige role, just wandering from A to B with little to do in between. So often with McCarthy, it’s hard to imagine that another actor could pull off any of his performances, but here it’s hard to imagine another actor who couldn’t do this while they sleep. There’s something interesting to say about the good deeds of an avowed benefactor taking a destructive edge, how altruism can ultimately be selfish, but the script, by longtime Falcone collaborator Steve Mallory, avoids it all. which is too gnarly, choosing to make Carol a boring spot. -free all women instead.
There’s room here for more comedy than we end up getting, but the script is so light on laughs, criminally, that we’re forced to find something else to hang on to, like romance. Carol’s surprisingly low-key and likeable with her ex, played by Bobby Cannavale. Their scenes are the most engaging even if their dynamics are not sufficiently sketched that we can really invest. Corden’s use is as charmless as elsewhere, while elsewhere Jean Smart and Brian Tyree Henry are wasted as Carol’s president and BFF respectively, showing up enthusiastically but having little to play with. .
This is a testament to the extremely low bar set by the previous Falcone and McCarthy films together that something as forgettable and not funny as Superintelligence will not be classified as a total disaster. Instead, it’s just another regrettable waste of her talent and another reminder that the best marriages can lead to the worst movies.