- on Friday, 17 June 2016 06:36
- by Loron Hays
Guilty pleasure. That’s exactly what Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart, is when it’s all said and done. This is a buddy-cop movie that is as stupid as it is harmless and funny. Critics will get off on hating it. Audiences will laugh at it. It’s a win-win. The two stars at the center of the film are pretty damn hilarious, even if the surrounding set-up is as hollow as a gutted log that’s been long rotting somewhere in a dark forest. Make any joke you want to about that metaphor; this comedy is exactly what the month of June ordered.
Opening with a high school graduation flashback that highlights a minor act of heroism in the face of rampant bullying, Central Intelligence aims to score with the young and the old as Calvin (Hart), dissatisfied with his lot in life as an adult, finds himself teaming up with the once-chubby Bob (Johnson), now a muscle-bound CIA agent (complete with a fanny pack full of secrets and a Public Enemy shirt), in order to save the compromised U.S. spy satellite system. Nothing in their high school years could have prepared them for this.
Co-starring Amy Ryan, Jason Bateman, Danielle Nicolet, and Aaron Paul, the movie is as loud and explosive as it is obvious. You won’t mind, though, because the shootouts win when the odd-couple moments don’t and vice versa. And just because bullying takes center stage, don’t think this is a message movie either. The En Vogue opening – with Johnson’s head CGI-smacked on an overweight teen’s body – simply jettisons whatever anti-bullying memo the writers had at the time.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers, Dodgeball), the comedy thankfully has some amount of good taste as it leaves out all the dick jokes, vomiting, and other gross-out gags we’ve grown accustomed to in these man-child exploits. Hell, we even only get one slo-mo shot. It isn’t as smart as Spy with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham nor as entertaining as the buddy-cop pictures from the 1980s; however, Central Intelligence – minus a few scenes and sidetracks – is a worthy companion piece to what has come before.
It is the construction of the narrative which is the best surprise of the movie; that and how action and comedy are woven together. This is a film which relies upon a trinity of differing views about the same occurrence and actually pulls it off, much to the credit of Thurber and co-writers Ike Barinholtz & David Stassen. But Hart and Johnson should also be complemented on their ability to mix banter with blunt force and make it look so effortless. Hart is far from the straight guy the advertisements are suggesting and Johnson, even if he’s a bit odd as Bob, slips back into macho action mode with relative ease. None of this is a stretch for either and, once again, we don’t mind.
It is also of interest to note that there is an uncredited comedic cameo that will excite some. If it has her blessing than the movie simply can’t be as bad as some of the print journalists are suggesting, right? Right. It’s not. Both Hart and Johnson look and act as if they are having the time of their life in Central Intelligence and that joy is definitely shared with the audience, you just have to turn off the brain when it begins to think about the on-screen insanity. Maybe that won’t happen, though. This is actually a well-constructed screenplay with solid character development…at least it’s passable and above average when held up next to your typical comedy script. A sign of things to come? Who knows.
Central Intelligence is mindless entertainment. It’s an ironic statement but we could all use the laugh.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language
Runtime: 114 mins
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Danielle Nicolet
Tagline: Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson
Memorable Movie Quote: "Wow, look at you. You've lost like 200 pounds."
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: June 17, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 11, 2014
Synopsis: After he reunites with an old pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.
No details available.