Doug Reviews: Central Intelligence (2016)

Central Intelligence unites two of the hottest stars in Hollywood in an action-comedy setting. Is the pairing successful or just another case of failed chemistry?

Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the Big Man on Campus in high school—the most popular athlete-actor-student leader there ever was. Bobby Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson) was the kid who didn’t fit in and got bullied all the time. At a final Senior Pep Rally, some school bullies prank Bobby in a humiliating manner and Calvin shows him kindness. Twenty years later, the high school reunion is coming up and Calvin is creeping up on a midlife crisis. He married his high school sweetheart, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), but in all other aspects of his life, he’s feeling unfulfilled. He’s an accountant at a big firm and keeps getting passed over for promotion, when he was voted most likely to succeed in high school. Calvin is contacted by a “Bob Stone” on Facebook, who turns out to be Bobby Weirdicht—the bullied fat kid is now a muscular giant. Beyond that, Bob is now a CIA agent hunting down an international criminal, the Black Badger, who killed his partner. However, when CIA Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) comes calling, she claims that Bob is a rogue agent and traitor trying to sell state secrets to the highest bidder. Who does Calvin trust?

Right off the bat, Central Intelligence is very funny. Hart and Johnson have great comedic chemistry and a lot of the film’s success builds off of that. The plot is kind of weak in that it’s completely ridiculous. I know comedies don’t always have to stand up to the same scrutiny plot-wise as other films, but this is also an action movie about spies, so I expected a bit more intricate plot. I will say, though, that the mystery of Bob’s loyalties is played out well. The other problem, which is typical for movies of this nature, is that the CIA is completely incompetent. It’s one thing to make the protagonist a total badass, but when that’s coupled with antagonists who are a joke, it diminishes both sets of characters. So, there are plenty of eye-rolling moments at how things work out for our heroes. The filmmakers constantly take the easy way out, which got annoying.

It’s the Rock’s world and we’re just living in it. He is in so many movies lately, it’s impossible to keep track. He’s very good in this film. Bob has an innocence and idealism that makes him endearing as a character. Also, this is just a theory, but I think Bob was supposed to be gay. All the narrative signposts point to him being gay, but it turns out he’s not. I have a feeling he was supposed to be, but the studio got cold feet and flipped the script. What they do with him in the final product leads to a fantastic cameo—one of three in the film that I won’t spoil—but I just think it would have been more interesting to have the Rock out there as a strong gay character. Hart is never going to be an amazing actor, but he actually plays a character here and does well with it, generating a lot of laughs. As I stated above, his chemistry with Johnson is really good—much better than the chemistry he tried to cultivate with Will Ferrell in Get Hard—and their relationship really carries the film.

Overall, Central Intelligence is by no means a great film, but it is an entertaining and funny one. If you’re looking to laugh this summer movie season, you can’t go wrong with Johnson and Hart. Just don’t look too deeply into the plot of this one, because you’ll just have a lot of questions.

 

 

Rating: B-

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