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Central Intelligence - The Riles Review
Kevin Hart can be a bit of a hit or miss comedian. Regardless of whether you like his stand-up or not, his movies are either hilarious or mind-aching for people, or in a rare case, waft in and out of being funny and gratuitous. Central Intelligence is the latest, and if it wasn’t for the brilliant work that Dwayne Johnson was doing, it would probably have suffered greatly.
Central Intelligence is about Calvin Joyner, who gets a friend request from Fat Robbie Wheirdicht (his full Christian name), who has now turned into the super muscular Bob Stone. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, Bob is a CIA agent, and he’s in some deep, top level shit.
It seems like the script for CI was brewed up by a bunch of dudes spitballing which gimmick would stick the best. The story is uninspired, and while sending a body-positive, anti-bullying message, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before a thousand times. The story is convenience primarily, all just setting up the next gag. But, the humour tends to connect really, really well.
The scripted jokes in the movie all land really well. Hart and Johnson have a good rapport, and both are already proven masters when it comes to delivery and timing. They both excel, especially when they’re together. But when it comes to the clearly improvised sections, which also seem to belong mostly to Kevin Hart, it’s rarely funny. They’re mostly overkill, repetitive and weak lines that don’t add much to a joke. If you want to describe Kevin Hart as hit and miss, you only have to show this movie to prove it. When his material works, it’s really funny. But sadly it doesn’t always work.
Dwayne Johnson though, was bringing his absolute A-game. He was non-stop. His character was so well conceived and portrayed it was actually quite a testament to his acting ability. Bob is multi-dimensional character, and Johnson is able to bring both the comedic and dramatic side of him forward with ease. There was a lot more going on with the writing and performance for Bob Stone than there was for any of the other characters, and without the charm and boyishness that Dwayne Johnson brings out in Bob, this movie would’ve been a completely deflated mess. Johnson takes what would’ve been a mediocre film and turns it into a great film.
The rest of the cast that aren’t Hart and Johnson don’t really exist outside of whatever the main pair need them for. No one is really examined or a part of anything outside the immediate. One slightly awkward thing I found was that for the high school flashback (the one with a tubby, naked Dwayne Johnson, I’m sure everyone has seen it by now) they used computer magic to apply Johnson’s face, and Hart just played a younger version of himself. Both looked real and believable, except one of the other high schoolers was played by two different people, a young person in the flashback and an older albeit enjoyable cameo in the present day. It was a weird sort of decision that affects almost nothing, but seemed to stick out. The conclusion to the film, while funny and sending that sweet message about bullying, was also sort of strange and inhuman. It was funny, and one gag in particular was brilliant, but the whole thing was forcing home a point, when really it didn’t have to try so hard.
Wrapping it up...
Whether you love or hate Kevin Hart, you should go out and watch this purely for the elevating performance by Dwayne Johnson. He makes it a standout comedy film all by himself. There are small moments of directorial greatness from Rawson Marshall Thurber, but truly, and without a doubt, it would’ve all been for nothing if The Rock wasn’t there.
Central Intelligence - 8/10