23 June 2016 | kevin_newdirections
The hit-to-miss ratio is surprisingly higher than you expect.
When a film has a tagline as witty and sharp as Central Intelligence's – "Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson" — something tells me that the producers came up with that pun first and decided to commission a script around it after. True enough, this film is an excuse to have Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart play delightfully silly characters amidst a fairly disposable plot. It really doesn't matter because you won't see this film for a complex plot, you'll see this film for some good laughs. The hit-to-miss ratio is surprisingly higher than you expect.
In Central Intelligence, Johnson plays a formerly morbidly obese high school student named Robbie Wierdicht (yes, it's pronounced as Weird Dick, hah!) who was subjected to a horribly cruel prank twenty years ago. He now resurfaces as Bob Stone, a herculean CIA agent who decides to reunite with his only friend in high school, Calvin "The Golden Jet" Joyner (Hart) — back then Central High's "most likely to succeed" student. Ironically, he is now living an unexceptional adult life as a mid-level accountant stuck in a rocky marriage. Little does Calvin know, what started as a mysterious Facebook friend request to a casual catch-up is Stone's silent attempt to enlist Calvin as his unwilling sidekick in a deadly mission to track down stolen U.S. satellite codes and stop a wanted kingpin called the "Black Badger" from obtaining them.
In his previous comedies (Ride Along and Get Hard), Hart is often portrayed as a fast- talking shtick at the center of attention. In this film, We're The Miller's director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who co- wrote the script with Bob Fisher and Steve Faber, breaks this stereotype by subduing Hart to a serious straight-up role and giving the goofy prankster role to Johnson (responsible for pulling off most of the verbal and physical gags). The role reversal works with the slapstick comedy thanks to both actors' exhilarating chemistry and sharp performance. Their size juxtaposition alone is a joke in itself. "Pint-sized" squeaky-voiced Hart, with all his outbursts and babbling, mixes panic and rage probably better than any actor. As for Johnson, he keeps up with expectations here whether by simply donning fanny packs, unicorn t-shirts, and uber-tight pajamas; or flaunting his cartoonish manliness against a character who is surprisingly sensitive and still embarrassed with his past. Central Intelligence is given more depth when it deals with our main characters' high school baggage – Calvin's frustration on his life turning not the way he expected, and Bob's self-esteem issues due to the serious and lasting effects of bullying.
Don't get me wrong, the exhausting espionage plot struggles to have any shred of intelligence to it. It is quite perfunctory to the point that it might as well fade into a background noise. It even falls apart to utter nonsense by the end when the plot twist is revealed and judging by their focus on comedy, the filmmakers seems to be fine leaving the plot holes unpatched. Neither are the villains written with deep thought as they are all cardboard bad guys who are homophobes, bullies, mercenaries or a combination thereof. Apart from the comedy itself, the film apologizes in its shortcomings by boasting a roster of cameos that I'll leave unmentioned for the sake of surprise.
You can groan at its dumb plot, get antsy over action scenes where no one (not even trained CIA gunmen) can shoot straight or frown at Calvin and Stone whispering strategies whilst pointed with guns, but Central Intelligence is hard to dislike because Johnson and Hart shine perfectly in their roles and hence, elevate this film from subpar to moderately enjoyable. Without them, this film will be as useful as a bag of rocks. That being said, Central Intelligence can be a good distraction during a hot summer day.