Central Intelligence (2016)
PG-13 / 114 min
Comedy / Crime
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
When you put Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in a movie together, it should be pretty clear what kind of movie you’re going to get. The two actors have some great off-screen chemistry, so buddying them up in a movie like Central Intelligence just seems like the right way to go. In fact, the movie might not have been as good without the two stars. Central Intelligence largely works because Hart and Johnson’s chemistry is what carries the movie.
The fun begins in high school, where we are quickly introduced to Hart and Johnson’s characters. Hart plays Calvin Joyner, the all-around cool kid at Central High. He’s practically involved in everything and has been voted as “most likely to succeed.” He’s the model student. On the other hand, we have Johnson’s character, Bob Stone. Bob Stone is his alias that he goes by, but frankly I forget his actual name. (I know it’s something similar to “weird dick”) Anyway, he’s a fat kid (The Rock was actually transformed into a fat kid, yeah I know, surprising!) who’s the target of every bully at school. After being thrown out onto the gym floor in front of everyone at an assembly, naked, Calvin helps out Bob by giving him his varsity jacket to cover up his special parts. This plants the seed for a future friendship.
Twenty years later, we find Calvin looks exactly the same, but he’s working as an accountant. Not exactly the type of job he would have wanted after being voted most likely to succeed. After sending Calvin a Facebook message asking him if he wanted to meet up, Calvin finally meets up with Bob Stone who now looks like…well, the Rock. How did he get so jacked? Well, he worked out six hours a day, every day for the past twenty years. Pretty simple right? Later that night Bob Stone, who happens to be part of the CIA, ropes Calvin into a matter of national security…one that he can’t get himself out of. Thus, hilarity ensues.
The movie is about as formulaic as a mismatched buddy comedy can be. If there was a golden slate listing all the common tropes that these films need to contain, Central Intelligence follows it to a T. The thing that makes the film seem fresh is the scattered bits of bullet-spraying gunplay that usually involve Johnson’s character doing all the work while Hart somehow manages to flail around without getting hit. No surprise there, but it still leads to some funny moments. This is the kind of movie where a banana is a credible weapon that can do some serious damage. The movie isn’t trying to be sophisticated. That’s not its mission. It’s a lot of dumb fun; a movie where you turn your brain off for a little while.
There’s a lot of laughs to be had throughout the movie thanks to the signature brand of Kevin Hart comedy. Some might find it gets old, but I personally still enjoy every minute of it. There’s also lots of movie and pop culture references to be found, more than I was expecting, that lead to some great moments as well. 16 Candles anyone? Some of the film’s best moments however come from the interactions between Hart and Johnson’s characters. The actor’s chemistry shows and they instantly become very likable. Like I previously said, the movie would have been a bore if it weren’t for these two actors taking the top spots.
Where Central Intelligence starts to break down a little is towards its ending, where plot-wise the movie starts to become a mess of who’s who. The movie’s main plotline is the identity of the mysterious Black Badger, the guy who is trying to buy some top secret intel from the CIA on black market auction sites. Calvin and Bob’s mission is to find this guy, but there seems to be a bunch of people who are thought to be the Black Badger. You don’t really know who the big baddie is until the movie’s final moments. It becomes hard to follow, but once again it’s the humor from Hart and Johnson that pulls it all out of the water.
Central Intelligence isn’t a groundbreaking comedy by any means. With a Hart and Johnson comedy, you should be well aware of the type of movie you’re signing up for. There’s still a bunch of fun and laughs to be had however that makes this a comedy that works. The movie might not be for everyone, but if you like Kevin Hart’s previous big-screen comedic efforts, then this should be a movie for you.