***1/2 (out of 5)
June 17, 2016
Dwayne Johnson as BOB STONE
Kevin Hart as CALVIN JOYNER
Amy Ryan as AGENT PAMELA HARRIS
Danielle Nicolet as MAGGIE
Aaron Paul as PHIL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Back when I wrote for an online film site (now defunct with its archived pulled from existence), the editors suggested that I had a special super power to like terrible movies. The review that spawned this comment was my middling review for “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which everyone else seemed to hate but I found tolerable.
Since then, I have been happy to split with the opinion of many critics out there. The result has been my love of films like “G-Force” and a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to classics like “Sunset Boulevard.” Now, it seems that my affinity for the films of Kevin Hart (including the “Ride Along,” “The Wedding Ringer” and “Get Hard”) provide more evidence for my super power.
“Central Intelligence” is the kind of movie that many critics hate. It’s likability is hinged on the popularity of two actors crammed together in a fish-out-of-water buddy comedy. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are a modern Mutt and Jeff, using their size and other general physical difference to mine the jokes. The same tactic was used in “Get Hard” with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. This worked for me then, and it works for me now.
Hart plays a former high school sports superstar who is now realizing that he lives a pretty humdrum life in his late 30s. Johnson plays the former fat kid who was bullied at school, only fit and powerful in his modern life. Johnson is a CIA agent trying to enlist Hart’s help to track down a mysterious weapons dealer.
I like both Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. While it’s easier to peg Hart for his talents in a movie like this, Johnson is a bit of an odd duck here. Sure, Johnson has shown a talent for lighthearted tongue-in-cheek humor going back to his wrestling days, but he’s more popularly known for his action roles than his comedy or family-friendly roles. However, if you’ve watched this guy’s career as long as I have (going back to Disney films like “The Game Plan,” surprisingly funny bit parts in films like “Be Cool” or whimsical action comedies like “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”), you know he can have fun with his roles.
To this point, Hart and Johnson play a bit of role reversal. Johnson takes point on the overt comedy moments, making him the goofball of the two, with his character taking on some clever bits like being a huge unicorn fan or declaring “Sixteen Candles” to be his favorite movie of all time. Against him, Hart plays the straight man, offering more reaction to Johnson’s antics than broad grandstanding we see him do in films like “Think Like a Man Too” or the “Ride Along” films.
Sure, the story to this film is stupid. It’s not terribly well written with gaping plot holes and twists that are so obvious you can see them coming a mile away through said gaping plot holes. However, brilliant writing and intricate character development isn’t what I’m looking for in this movie.
To this end, the plot is entirely serviceable in order to get these two actors together. Sure, their jokes are often cut from the cloth of a male-centric 80s comedy, but they still made me laugh. And this is exactly what I wanted from a movie like this.
“Central Intelligence” isn’t going to be remembered as a classic film, but it’s a nice slice of escapist entertainment for the summer.