Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Danielle Nicolet, Amy Ryan, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul, Ryan Hansen
I feel like Kevin Hart has just resigned himself to doing buddy comedies in the same way Liam Neeson has taken on the vengeful action flicks. You basically know what to expect going into each one as the only difference is the co-star. With Central Intelligence Kevin Hart plays Calvin Joyner who was the All-American class president, prom king, and was voted most likely to succeed in high school. Twenty years have passed and now he’s an accountant who feels like he was meant for more in life than his boring desk job. On the opposite end of the high school spectrum was Robbie Weirdicht who was mercilessly teased for being overweight and flamboyant. It’s now time for the big high school reunion and Calvin is leery about going. He gets a strange Facebook message from a guy named Bob Stone but doesn’t recognize the name and vague profile. After a little back and forth, Bob responds by claiming he’s Robbie Weirdicht. They meet for drinks to catch up, and Calvin realizes that “Fat Robbie” is now Hercules. He’s now played by Dwayne Johnson so you can envision the size different between the plus-size Robbie and the new beefy Bob Stone. There’s also the visible contrast between Hart and Johnson.
Low and behold, Bob invites himself over to spend the night and persuades Calvin to use his accounting capabilities to help log in to some strange international account that he’s working on. Calvin goes along and abides putting far more trust in Bob than he ought to for someone he hasn’t seen in twenty years. The next morning he wakes up to the CIA knocking at his door looking for Bob. Amy Ryan plays the head CIA agent on the case looking for Bob who is wanted for murder and treason. After a couple of tussles, Bob takes Calvin hostage so he can use him to help solve the puzzle against a foreign enemy known as “The Black Badger.”
The tagline on the movie’s poster states “A little Hart and a big Johnson.” This must have been the pitch to studios to get this script written. Like many of Hart’s movies, they all seem catered and written with him as the star. Either that or they get revised to add in jokes to fit Hart’s brand of comedy. Whether it’s his Ride Along franchise with Ice Cube or Get Hard with Will Ferrell, they are all the buddy comedy with him paired with someone who is taller and tougher. This time it’s Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. With each one, Hart is playing your average guy who finds himself swept up in a whirl of danger, and he has to go along with the ride leaving him completely out of his element.
I had assumed that with Ike Barinholtz listed as one of the screenwriters that this film would add up to more than your standard Hart film. He’s primarily known as an actor in Neighbors and Sisters, but he’s done some writing on The Mindy Project and MADtv. Oh how I was quickly proven wrong as the same ol’ shtick occurs here in Central Intelligence. Hart gets to run his mouth as a coping mechanism to get him out of a dangerous situation. When that doesn’t work, he’s screaming his way through the scene as the plot thickens against his character. Naturally there are also jokes and comments about his height along the way. It comes standard with any given Kevin Hart film. Johnson’s Bob Stone says to him, “You look like snack-sized Denzel.” Is this all that funny when it’s recycled time and time again in each of his movies? Apparently so, as the audience I saw it with was full of his fans who ate it up like it was comedy gold.
I know he’s going by Dwayne Johnson on his acting resume, but I can’t help but think and refer to him as The Rock. He hasn’t taken on a comedic role like this in quite some time. He’s willing to play against type to a certain degree thanks to the many facades we see of Bob Stone. He’s no stranger to doing action movies, but here he’s more than willing to perform a bar brawl in a tight rainbow unicorn shirt, wear a sweater vest, or get naked at the prom. His attempt at comedy was a bit jarring at first when I was questioning is acting abilities, but it turned out to be a character choice as Bob Stone isn’t quite the man he’s set up to be. I’d be interested in a seeing a comedy where he’s paired with John Cena. He’s another former wrestler now turned comedic actor thanks to Trainwreck and Sisters. Hart and Johnson are also joined by Amy Ryan who has the subtlest wink to the camera fully acknowledging that she’s in this kind of movie playing the tough CIA type. Jason Bateman and Aaron Paul have supporting roles playing the kinds of characters you would expect. Bateman’s playing the adult version of the kid who teased Bob Stone. As you can bet, he’s still a huge dick in adulthood. Paul plays another shady character who you don’t know if you can trust or not.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also directed We’re the Millers and Dodgeball, is a co-writer on the film. He attempts some twists by keeping you guessing on whether or not Dwayne Johnson’s actually the bad guy or not. I’ll admit to wavering back and forth on what his true motives were and who was really working for whom. The buddy action comedy isn’t always tried and true, and we’ve already seen a plethora of them this year including Hart’s Ride Along 2, Keanu, and The Nice Guys. What I find the most disappointing is that the latter two succeeded with this sub-genre yet failed to ignite at the box office. Frankly, I found The Nice Guys to be the funniest film of the year and was a perfect blend of sharp humor and meticulously choreographed action scenes. On the other hand, Ride Along 2 and Central Intelligence will do gangbusters. There’s no denying Hart and Johnson have a loyal fan base. I was on board for the first half hour or so as they have great chemistry together, but I grew tired quickly due to the repetitive nature it took with many of Hart’s other movies. This is another example of a movie where some of the funniest and genuine moments are left for the outtakes during the credits. Before you start thinking that I just don’t like him, I found him quite sweet and charming in the rom-com remake of About Last Night. That film gave him the opportunity to stretch and try something new. I want to see him do more of those kinds of movies.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Only if you’re a die-hard Kevin Hart fan.
RATING: 1 out of 5 TICKET STUBS