Buddy-comedies are severely lacking in muscle-bound weirdos.
Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the most popular guy in high school. His nickname was “the Golden Jet”, he was homecoming king, and he did this awesome back-flip that made everyone go crazy. Essentially, he was the man. However, after high school, he never really amounted to much. He works as a drone at an accounting firm and seems to be having problems with his wife. But now with the 20 year reunion looming on the horizon, Cavin gets a random message from a former classmate of his – the nerdy and obese Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), who hasn’t been seen, or heard from since he was publicly shamed at the homecoming pep-rally. Now, though, Bob is jacked, muscular and absolutely willing to kick anyone’s ass, even if he’s still a little weird and really clingy to Calvin. Why? Well, because Calvin was the only nice kid to Bob when nobody else was. And when they’re hanging out, Calvin and Bob are having the times of their lives, until the CIA rolls up, guns a blazin’, wanting Bob’s life, and accusing him of all sorts of wrongdoings, with poor Calvin in the middle of it all.
If there was ever a comedian whose stand-up I absolutely love, adore and get a kick out of, every time I watch it, it’s Kevin Hart. However, if there was a comedian whose stand-up I love, but whose movies are pretty awful, it’s still Kevin Hart. Dwayne Johnson is sort of in the same boat; while I love his persona in and out of the ring, his movies tend to be “meh” at the very best. Sure, he’s had some winners, but really, they don’t always offer a lot for him to do, except occasionally be charming, yet, always look big, tough and as muscular as a normal human being can look.
You’d think that together, they’d make a movie that’s just as lame as their own respective projects, which, if you did, you’d be wrong.
In fact, I was quite wrong here and you know what? I’m glad. See, Central Intelligence is the typical blockbuster, big-budget, buddy-action flick that’s going to make tons of money because of its stars and that’s all fine and dandy, but honestly, we’ve seen that manipulative system been done before. Does it make the studios richer? Well, yes, but it still takes away from the fact that you have two great stars, teaming up together in something and you give them absolutely nothing to work with.
And sure, you could sort of make the same argument about Johnson and Hart in Central Intelligence, but honestly, it’s a tad different. For one, they both have some funny material to work through, even if it doesn’t always deliver or hit the right notes. While some of the jokes are standard and never really laugh-out-loud material, what Hart and Johnson are able to do, what with their charismatic and lovable personas, is make the material better by just being together, side-by-side, on the screen, and appearing as if they’re having the greatest times of their lives.
That’s why a lot of Central Intelligence works – these two are so fun and lovely to watch, that when you put them together, it’s actually quite joyous to watch as they’re chemistry builds and builds over time. Although Hart is playing the straight man here, he still dials it down to just the right notch where he isn’t a totally boring simpleton; a lot of the yelling, the fast-talking, and schticky things that we usually know and sometimes, love, him for, are here, but they aren’t dialed-up to eleven, as they have been in other movies that solely rely on him. Central Intelligence isn’t that movie, because, after all, it has Dwayne Johnson to work with and he’s having an absolute ball.
And everyone’s better off because of it.
Johnson’s very funny here, as he has definitely been in the past; imagine him in Be Cool, but with some better jokes and plotting for him to roll with. But there’s more to the character of Bob, that makes Johnson’s performance better. For instance, the fact that Bob himself is still, when you get down to it, a sad, lonely and embarrassed 18-year-old chubby kid, even if he does look like the Rock. It’s quite funny and could have definitely been overplayed, but Johnson finds just the right fit for this role because he fully commits himself to this kind of silly, effeminate role, without ever making it seem like he’s above the material, or actually in on the joke that’s happening.
And yes, it deserves to be said that Central Intelligence, when it isn’t featuring a whole bunch of car-chases, guns, shootings, and bloodless, PG-13 violence, it does try to be serious and melodramatic, and it doesn’t quite work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see that there was an effort on the part of everyone involved to make this more than just your typical broad, buddy-comedy, but at the same time, it still doesn’t quite hit its mark. If anything, the movie can sometimes feel like it’s straining itself to be “important”, or “about something”, and it just feels honed in.
Granted, I didn’t want to be bothered with anymore of the CIA-conspiracy plot, but still, there’s definitely some stuff that could have been trimmed-down here, or at the very least, taken out altogether. Still, I’ll take what I can get with this summer and if that’s the case, then Central Intelligence was just fine.
Fine enough to make me forget that Kevin Hart movies tend to suck.
Consensus: Building off the wonderful and playful chemistry between Johnson and Hart, Central Intelligence isn’t always funny, but definitely features some nice bits of humor, to weigh out all of the senseless action, twists, and turns that we don’t really care about in the first place.
6 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire