Genre: Comedy, Action and Adventure
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet
Release Date: June 17th, 2016
Central Intelligence is an unexpectedly satisfying comedy that takes full advantage of its two strong leads. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart co-star here but instead of playing familiar characters, pilule this film has a lot of fun breaking down these actors’ stereotypical roles.
Here, Johnson doesn’t portray the tough guy we know him as. Nor does Hart play the larger-than-life character we’ve seen him as.
The comedy begins with Johnson appearing as Robbie Weirdicht, an overweight high school student, singing alone in the shower. He’s happy to be himself when no one is around. Bullies attack the naked teen and embarrass him in front of the entire school. The only one who tries to shield Robbie from the humiliation is Calvin (Kevin Hart), an uber-popular football captain. Calvin has the decency to look out for his fellow student.
Twenty years later, the grown-up Calvin works as a forensics accountant but wishes he was more. When Bob Stone — a mysterious Facebook user who seemingly loves unicorns —messages Calvin, the football star and the bullied loner are reunited.
The Sixteen Candles-adoring, jean shorts-wearing, fannie pack-loving Robbie has transformed into a muscle-packed, gun-toting CIA agent named Bob.
Bob enlists Calvin in a secret mission — the details of which are secondary to the comedy — which forces the duo to team up to find a mole and prevent the purchase of secret satellite codes. The CIA believes Bob has betrayed them and the vigilant agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) is searching for him.
The breakout performer here is Johnson, who truly seems up for anything. The wrestler-turned-actor may have a tough exterior but Johnson fills his character with a self-conscious interior. He can take on bullies now but he’s still the same guy who was mocked relentlessly in high school. Even as a physically-empowering operative, he still sees himself as the overweight teen he once was.
Hart, for his part, takes his comedy down a notch here letting Johnson stretch his comedic muscles. The comedian is still hilarious when put in overwhelming situations (including an office escape and a therapy session gone wrong) but he really tries to play the straight man here when the mayhem quiets down. His character may have been a high school superstar but he’s now in the midst of a personal crisis because he believes he didn’t live up to his potential.
Unlike other comedies, the jokes here get better as the story moves forward. The first twenty minutes are a little slow and feature quite a few jokes about the male anatomy but as the plot progresses, so too does the humor.
The screenplay, credited to Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and Rawson Marshall Thurber isn’t as strong as it could’ve been though. Both lead actors seem very willing to go all out here but the screenplay doesn’t take full advantage of that. One wishes that the comedy could’ve been pushed forward a bit more to allow for a few more comedic surprises but as it stands, Central Intelligence is still a very funny motion picture.
A lot of credit belongs to director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), who takes advantage of his actors’ gifts with strong results. In the past, several of Kevin Hart’s films (including Ride Along and About Last Night) have relied too heavily on the comedian’s abilities but this one uses him well and also provides Johnson with a great opportunity to revel in a different type of character. Central Intelligence is different and stands out because of that.
Review by: John Hanlon