Central Intelligence (2016) Movie Review
Rawson Marshall Thurber
Ike Barinholtz (screenplay), David Stassen (screenplay), Rawson Marshall Thurber (screenplay), Ike Barinholtz (story), and David Stassen (story)
At the very least, the new action/comedy Central Intelligence will be remembered for opening against the Pixar cash cow Finding Dory, if not for anything else. It marks the first collaboration between two of the most ubiquitous presences in movies over the past 4 years: the media machine known as Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, who doesn’t have the capability to turn anything down, whether it’s hosting the MTV Movie Awards or an Off Broadway Production of Webster, if you need somebody to do less intelligent version of Dave Chappelle, you know who to call.
To be fair, Central Intelligence is a pretty fun 2 hours at the movies, not as bad as you’d expect but not as good as you’d hope. Even if you choose to miss it, I’m sure the Rock or Kevin Hart will come out with another movie in a couple of weeks for you to ignore.
Fun Fact: Since 2013, The Rock and Kevin Hart have starred in 52 films. 1 of them is actually good. Maybe. Hint: It has the words “Fast” and “Furious” in the title.
The plot seems perfunctory, as it’s merely a hook for a series of gags that work for the most part. The filmmakers utilize and accept that the funniest part of the movie is seeing the size difference between the Rock and Hart in same frame. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss pointed out the inexplicable hilarity in seeing someone really short and someone really tall in the same shot, and Central gives you that in spades.
I meant bunches. Not spades.
The movie opens in 1996. The Rock plays Bob Weirdicht (yes, it sounds just like that). He’s fat and has no friends and gets picked on by the school bullies because he’s fat and he has no friends.
Remember in the heyday of the 90s, when the only school shootings you had to worry about were drive-bys. Sigh.
It’s the final assembly of the year and generic white bullies pick a naked Bob up and parade him in front of the school. They are not all about that bass.
The only one to offer him any aid (in the form of a letterman’s jacket) is the class president Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart, in a subtle 90s fade playing the Kevin Hart character he always plays).
Flash forward 20 years and Calvin is leading an unfulfilling life as an accountant. Having studied accounting, I’m not really sure you can have a fulfilling life as an accountant. Calvin married his high school sweetheart but something is missing…
He refuses to go to his High School reunion later that week because he’s not really that proud of what he’s become. What could possibly snap him out of that rut?
How about a Facebook Friend request from “Bob Stone”? Calvin accepts, even though Bob doesn’t even have a profile picture, just that blandly creepy blue head.
In real life, has anybody actually accepted a Friend Request from a Blue Head? Yes. Karen Gilford did in 2014. She did it just to be nice and then was later killed by said Blue Head. John Coldstorage also did in 2011. He was killed and eaten 2 days later.
It turns out that Bob Stone is really Bob Weirdicht but grown up and looking like The Rock, which still doesn’t explain why he hasn’t changed his profile picture.
Bob would like to catch up with Calvin over drinks. Calvin accepts because he finds it intriguing that Bob hasn’t killed himself yet.
Bob and Calvin have a Bromantic Meet Cute (“You look sexy as dick”) in which Calvin realizes that Bob has never really let go of what Calvin did for him that fateful day at the gym. Almost to a startlingly sycophantic degree.
Bob then beats up bullies (“I don’t like Bullies”) who are picking on Calvin. They then drink some more and somehow Bob weasels his way into sleeping over at Calvin’s house.
As a favor, Calvin looks over some accounting files and surmises that it’s an auction site. Bob “accidentally” spills water on Calvin’s laptop and borrows his too-tight pajamas and sleeps on his couch.
The next day Central Intelligence agents appear at Calvin’s house. Bob Stone is wanted by the CIA and now Calvin is now shoulder-deep (hip-deep to more normal-sized people) in trouble.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know The Rock’s “Spoiler Alert”. If you haven’t, why are you reading this?
What Works With Central Intelligence
- The movie breezes by on the genuine chemistry between The Rock and Kevin Hart finding an excellent balance between the Rock’s physical comedy and Hart’s standard manic performance. Tell me if you got this too, but for whatever reason, a homosexual tension between Hart and Johnson seems to have been cut out after that first scene in the bar, one that’s hinted at more than once in the scene but never again afterwards. If it’s true, I wonder why that was?
- I usually find Hart annoying onscreen (I‘ll admit to having never seen any of the Ride Along movies, because they look stupid), but director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers, Dodgeball) tamps down Hart’s more egregious mannerisms so it doesn’t reach Ken Jeong/ Zach Galifinakis levels of aggravation.
- Not sure if it’s a good thing that 2 of the movie’s biggest laughs come from cameos from the stars of 2013’s not-very-good Identity Thief.
What Doesn't Work With Central Intelligence
- A lazy plot written by David Stassen and Ike Barinholtz (along with 3 other credited writers) is barely held together by Hart and Rock’s chemistry. It features a laughable red-herring and a generic bad guy you can spot the moment he/she appears onscreen…bitch. For a movie featuring the word Intelligence, the story doesn’t have a lot of it.
- Not sure if it’s a good thing Part II- Not sure it’s a good thing that the End Credit Outtakes get bigger laughs than anything in the movie itself. At least you’ll be leaving with a smile on your face.
Not that this is saying much, but Central Intelligence may just be the greatest Kevin Hart movie ever…and just an average Dwayne Johnson effort. But if you want to get away from those screaming kids in Finding Dory, you could do a lot worse…