Melissa McCarthy's talent the saving grace in not so super new comedy Superintelligence

Bobby Cannavale as George and Melissa McCarthy as Carol Peters in Superintelligence
Damon Smith

SUPERINTELLIGENCE (PG, 106 mins) Comedy/Sci-Fi/Romance. Melissa McCarthy, James Corden, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jean Smart. Director: Ben Falcone.

Released: December 11

Rating: 5/10

YOU don't require superintelligence to spot a worrying trend in Melissa McCarthy's career since her 2011 breakthrough in Bridesmaids, which snagged her a richly deserved Oscar nomination. Her least successful roles in Tammy, The Boss and Life Of The Party are all directed by her husband Ben Falcone and co-written by the happy couple.

Falcone is back behind the camera for Superintelligence, a high-concept yarn penned by Steve Mallory, which rests the fate of the world in the hands of McCarthy's bland, nondescript everywoman.

It's the funniest of the conjugal collaborations and boasts touching moments when the leading lady demonstrates her teary-eyed dramatic range with aplomb. However, the bar has been set incredibly low.

Mallory peppers his script with pop culture references to 1980s and 1990s films and TV series including Knight Rider, Law & Order and WarGames. Each punchline lands with a smile but he evidently doesn't trust us to giggle in the right places because characters insist on explaining gags ad nauseum.

The only time we aren't treated like simpletons – a vocal cameo by Octavia Spencer – elicits the warmest reaction.

Computer coding, which originated in the operating system of a fluffy pink Candy Panda electronic toy, acquires awareness and silently takes control of every electronic device around the planet. The superintelligence hijacks CCTV cameras to search for a "baseline guinea pig" to determine whether humanity should be saved, enslaved or destroyed.

This covert surveillance includes a job interview in Seattle where former Yahoo executive Carol Peters (McCarthy), who walked away from her high-paid job to pursue philanthropic endeavours, is rudely dismissed as "the most average person on Earth".

The following morning, the superintelligence contacts Carol through her appliances, using the voice of her favourite celebrity: James Corden. The omnipotent algorithm persuades Carol to demonstrate a human being's full spectrum of emotions by making amends with her old flame, George (Bobby Cannavale), a professor of creative writing who is poised to leave Seattle for a coveted one-year tenure at Trinity College in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Carol's best friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), who works at Microsoft, alerts the US President (Jean Smart) and her advisers to the global threat.

Superintelligence relies heavily on McCarthy's gifts as a physical comedian and for once, Falcone's direction doesn't snuff out her brilliance. Gently simmering on-screen chemistry with Cannavale depends more on natural rapport between co-stars than anything explicit in the script.

Corden is granted excessive screen time as the wish-granting AI – "I'm not a genie in a Disney movie!" – at the expense of a talented supporting cast, who count their blessings if their characters have one discernible trait by the end credits.

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