Central Intelligence, 2016.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Ryan Hansen, Thomas Kretschmann, and Jason Bateman.
After he reunites with an old school pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.
As I preface with every movie I review starring Kevin Hart, it must be said that I don’t understand the hate for the guy, and genuinely think he is one of the more gifted comedians and comedic actors on the scene today. On the other hand, having been a professional wrestling fan for two decades now, I have always been familiar with Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock and his unprecedented, incomparable electrifying chemistry in humorous situations, especially when his role is basically to talk shit, act condescending, and mess with others nowhere near his imposing physical stature. Remember how The Rock used to bully Jonathan Coachman during every interview, convincing him to make an ass of himself every single episode of Raw? Replace Coach with Kevin Hart and you have Central Intelligence.
The welcome surprise element with Central Intelligence however is that the movie actually carries an anti-bullying message, proudly wearing it on its sleeve. Chances are you have seen the advertised scene of an overweight teenager (and mostly remember it for getting scarred by the horrendous digital plastering of Dwayne’s actual face over someone else, complete with freakish expressions and movements), and I wouldn’t blame you for assuming that the joke was some mean-spirited, lazy material meant to poke fun at heavy-set people. In actuality, that scene is what sets his character’s life in motion to live a healthier lifestyle, work out literally nonstop, and somehow become a CIA agent, changing his name to Bob Stone.
Bob is still unable to let go of that past though, as it occasionally crops up throughout the movie. The script also gives The Rock so much emasculating material to work with (things like wearing fanny packs and unicorn shirts), that you begin to see an absolute badass rocking apparel that would get most everyone else beat up, subsequently repressing their insecurities. Basically, you get to see The Rock in a goofy wardrobe, but for a much greater purpose, taking a strong stance on letting people be themselves. There’s even a scene where he takes out a group of homophobic bullies; the character is basically the Terminator if the Terminator were tasked with teaching assholes a lesson at respecting each other’s differences.
And then there’s Kevin Hart playing Calvin, the cool kid in high school voted most popular to succeed in life, stereotypically bored out of his mind working a less than thrilling accounting job. He wants some spice in his life, gets roped into the shenanigans of a world threatening crisis, and actually realizes that he shouldn’t take the life he has with his high school sweetheart for granted. It is everything you would expect from a movie of this genre, except it’s infused with the chipmunk hyper personality of Kevin Hart screaming and yelling his way through every ridiculous life-threatening situation The Rock pulls him into.
Furthermore, most of these situations are generally pretty funny because The Rock and Kevin Hart have great chemistry together; both are very charismatic, and they play off the juxtaposition of huge and small expertly enough to generate a number of laughs throughout the near two hour running time. As far as modern-day actors go, these two are a comedic dream team, and Central Intelligence cannot be the last movie these guys work on together. Even though The Rock is a vulnerable badass here, he still gets to fuck with Kevin Hart for our entertainment.
The problem though is that everything surrounding their interactions and chemistry (aside from the amusing and well-meaning but heavy-handed tolerant message) is uninspired and derivative of every other buddy-agent action movie about two unlikely heroes coming together to save the free world. Very little of the action will be remembered, the plot is completely predictable and all over the place with a number of forgettable supporting characters, and it unfortunately overwhelms the actual interesting themes the movie has going for it. This isn’t necessarily surprising considering that four writers took part in putting together the script, but still disappointing all the same.
There is much more than an average movie here, but as is, Central Intelligence is just two lovable larger-than-life personalities trying their hardest to make the most out of clichés and run-of-the-mill storytelling. For the most part, the duo succeeds.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★