Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Ben Falcone

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, James Corden, Brian Tyree Henry, Jean Smart, Sam Richardson, Ben Falcone, Michael Beach, Rachel Ticotin.

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Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) is a former tech executive in Seattle, who now works with animal adoption groups and not for profit environmental groups. But her life is suddenly turned upside down after she begins to notice that her appliances seem to be talking to her with the voice of James Corden. It turns out that the very average Carol has been chosen by a rapidly evolving artificial intelligent computer in an experiment to see whether the human race deserves to live or not. The self-aware AI takes on the voice and face of Corden because she is a big fan and his presence has a soothing effect on Carol. The AI boosts Carol’s bank balance, gives her a plush new waterfront apartment, designer clothes and a brand spanking new Tesla.

And for some reason it is important for this AI to get Carol and her former boyfriend George (Bobby Cannavale) back together again before he leaves for Ireland.

As time seems to be running out for Carol and the planet, the President (Jean Smart) assembles a think tank comprising military advisors and some of the top computer techs from Silicon Valley to try and outthink the rogue AI machinery.

We’ve had rogue computers and AI before in films – think 2001’s HAL, the computer from Demon Seed, Terminator’s Skynet, and Spike Jonze’s Her. Unfortunately, there is no obvious intelligence at work here. This awful, flat and unfunny and nonsensical mix ofalleged comedy and sci-fi comes from the pair of Melissa McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone. This is their fourth collaboration and follows the dire Tammy, The Boss and The Life Of The Party. Given the succession of duds the pair has created there should be a law passed preventing them from ever collaborating on another movie.

The scenes set in the war room lack any humour whatsoever – if they had even a modicum of the intelligence or wit of the war room scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s classic satire Dr Strangelove then they might have added something to this nonsense. The flaccid script is credited to regular collaborator Steve Mallory (who also wrote The Boss), but it is flat and pedestrian and offers up very few laughs. Falcone’s tone deaf approach to comedy doesn’t help, and his slow and uneven direction fails to gloss over the many flaws in the film’s internal logic.

This is a role tailor made for McCarthy, who brings to the table some of her usual mannerisms and self-deprecating humour, but she simply cannot bring any spark to the material. This is a major step backwards from her superb dramatic performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Cannavale, who appeared with McCarthy in Spy, does establish an awkward chemistry with her. Falcone himself plays a creepy intelligence agent who approaches Carol. Falcone and Sam Richardson, who plays his partner, establish an odd couple dynamic that is more grating than comedic. There are a few gags at Corden’s expense, and the script is liberally spiced with some obvious pop cultural references.

Cinematographer Barry Peterson (Central Intelligence, etc) gives us some great views of the Seattle settings, which is one of the few positive features of this dreary film.

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