Central Intelligence Review
A LITTLE HART AND A BIG JOHNSON
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has definitely made a name for himself. After a failed prospect of playing for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League back in 1995, Johnson joined the ranks of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and became a professional wrestler. His fame skyrocketed during his tenure with the organization (from 1996 to 2004), winning over 17 championships reigns. A little bit during, but primarily after he left world of wrestling, Johnston tried his hand at acting, appearing in several features, including The Scorpion King, Get Smart, Hercules, and The Fast and the Furious franchise. Dwayne Johnson now tackles the comedy genre, along with comedian Kevin Hart in the movie Central Intelligence. Is this action / comedy worth seeing or is just another generic / mediocre “buddy cop” feature?
Back in high school, Robbie Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson) was overweight, outcast youth, constantly being targeted by bullies who were out to humiliate him. After one such arises during a pep rally assembly for the high school seniors, super-star and popular classmate Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) shows Robbie an “act of kindness”, making a profound impression on the teenager. Two decades later, Calvin, is struggling at his accounting job, faced with a dire reality when his future was once filled with limitless possibilities, while also facing the pressure from his wife Maggie (Danielle Nicolet). On the eve of his high school reunion, Calvin receives an invitation from Robbie, who now goes by the name of Bob Stone, to catch up. Agreeing to meet up, Calvin is taken aback by how much his old high school classmate as changed (now a muscle-bound man). However, Calvin is quickly pulled into Bob’s world when federal agents, led by Agent Harris (Amy Ryan), show up looking to arrest Bob on the solid suspicion of that their agent (bob) has gone rogue in international crimes involving stolen data. Now on the run, Bob takes Calvin with him, with the pair trying to restore order to their current situation and finding the real culprit behind the stolen data (the elusive “Black Badger”, while also taking to work on their fears and frustrations in both the present and the past.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
What can I say…. I like Dwayne Johnston. I was never really into wrestling, so I really can’t say that I was “fan” of his when he was pro-wrestler. I knew he was, along with some of his wrestling co-performers, but it’s just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t until he made the jump to appearing in movies is when I truly began to notice him. Granted, he’s not an academy award theatrical thespian when it comes to the performing arts, but he still knows how to deliver his lines. I personally love him in The Fast & Furious movies as Agent Hobbs. Yes, a lot of his lines in that move are cheesy and over-the-top, but that’s what makes it great about and “The Rock” pulls it off masterfully. When I first saw the trailer for Central Intelligence I was pretty surprise to see Johnston paired with Kevin Hart. The size difference alone between in the two is just hysterically, so yeah I was definitely going to see this movie when it came out. After seeing it, I found that Central Intelligence, despite lacking originality and a strong narrative, is still worth the price of admission of seeing Johnston and Hart on-screen for breezy “buddy cop” capper.
Central Intelligence is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who is best known for directing other comedy features such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and We’re the Millers. As the movie starts out, Thurber makes the effort to entertain audiences by switching up “personas” in both Johnson and Hart from their normal roles, which I will go into detail below. Thruber also knows how to make the movie will light and breezy. Sure, there’s plenty of cussing and a couple of absurdities thrown into the mix, but Central Intelligence didn’t feel long to me, despite its 114-minute runtime. Lastly, Thurber and his co-screenplay writers (Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen) incorporate an interesting theme / message into Central Intelligence. Bullying has always been a terrible thing, even in today’s many people have been affected by bullying from kindergarteners to grown adults and everything in-between. Thruber allows the film touches upon that subject via the character of Bob Stone aka Robbie Weirdicht. Some might think it’s a little “off-putting” in the movie, but I personally think its anti-bullying message is an insightful and poignant one to showcase.
Unfortunately, Central Intelligence isn’t as great as it aims to be. First and foremost, the film is a “buddy cop” movie through and through. Like many similar movies to this type of film, Central Intelligence tries to be different by throwing a lot of “misdirection” into the narrative (who really is Bob Stone and all that) and, while it works, it’s clear that it doesn’t help the overtly familiar narrative beats that usually do form in a “buddy cop” feature. Thus, the movie becomes slightly predictable as to where its heading and its inevitable conclusion. Beyond the excellent chemistry of the film’s two leads (more on that below), the story’s plot is predictable for a “buddy cop” romp (standard action and chase scenes) and even for the classic “high school reunion” troupe (something along the veins of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion). In addition, Central Intelligence comedy isn’t as funny as it could’ve been. Yes, there are some good moments comedic gags (I did laugh at most), but it wasn’t uproariously hilarious as I thought it was going to be. In short, Central Intelligence had a good premise, but becomes trapped within a formulaic narrative and a falls a bit short on laughter.
Central Intelligence rests squarely on the efforts and acting talents of the film’s two main protagonists. The biggest surprise comes in the form of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. While Johnston has made always been an “opposing figure”, with his muscle mass, it’s interesting to see him in such a reverse role, acting as the enthusiastic, but slightly goofy Bob Stone. Yes, he still an “opposing figure” on-screen, but Johnson gets to show viewers a different side of his acting ability. Like his previous roles, he still has good timing in his delivery of lines (whether goofy or serious) and it’s quite interesting to see in such a quirky role. In short, Johnson’s character of Bob Stone is “the true funny man” in the movie.
With Johnson being, more or less, delegated to being the “funny” man of the feature, Kevin Hart is freed up to play the “straight man” role of the feature. Like I said about Johnson, it’s definitely a change of pace for Hart to play, reverting to the more serious one (of the two), something different from his per usual comedy antics in his previous movies. Yet, Hart’s character of Calvin Joyner isn’t completely devoid of laughs as Hart still is able to perform some comedy via his motor-mouth comedies persona (something that Hart does best at) when he’s usually on-screen with Johnson. Truthfully, the pair do shine together on-screen, pairing their size and abilities as a “dynamic duo” and it’s probably one of the film’s greatest strengths. Johnson and Hart have the chemistry and it clearly shows in Central Intelligence.
While the movie primarily focuses on the talents of Hart and Johnston and in their characters, Central Intelligence’s minor roles, including Danielle Nicolet and Amy Ryan as Calvin’s wife Maggie and Bob’s CIA superior Agent Pamela Harris, are delegated to being more “grounded” characters that sort of anchor the two leads in several key scenes of either plot and / or character development. There are several of other important supporting characters in Central Intelligence, some of which that are played by some well-known performers that make fun “cameo” appearances. To list them and / or their characters would lose the sense of “surprise” of when they appear on-screen. Thus, I don’t want to “spoil” the movie for my viewers. Just be on the lookout for them.
Hart and Johnson team up together in Rawson Marshall Thurber’s move Central Intelligence. While the film’s story is formulaic and predictable, with some gaping holes, the movie does offer a fun tit-for-tat rapport from its two main actors (in a surprising reversal roles for both) as well as light anti-bullying message within its runtime, cultivating in a breezy feature that’s pure summer movie escapism. Personally, I liked it. Yes, it does fall flat at times with its played out narrative in both “buddy cop” dramas and “post high school reunion” comedies, but it was entertaining ride, especially with its two leads and the feature’s fun cameos. Thus, I would recommend it, but just don’t expect too much out of it as it won’t “raise the bar” in any category (action, comedy, drama). Even if you don’t completely buy into the movie, Central Intelligence does offer a great pairing of two unlikely actors. Like the movie’s tagline states “All you need is a little Hart and a big Johnson”.
3.5 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: June 17th, 2016
Reviewed On: June 22nd, 2016
Central Intelligence is rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language