June 18, 2016

Movie Review: Central Intelligence

When I first saw the trailer for Central Intelligence, it was right around the time that Ride Along 2 was out, I thought it was pretty quick for a third entry in the series. Of course, I knew it was not another Ride Along, but it was hard to deny the similarities that trailer had to the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube series of films. Based on those similarities, I was almost ready to write it off then and there; however, there was something else at play that kept my interest afloat. I am a fan of Dwayne Johnson, sure, he's had his share of disappointments, but he has a charisma that has carried him past them. In short, I saw the movie and I did, indeed, laugh.

The movie was directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who previously helmed Dodgeball and We’re the Millers, shepherds the film through its comedic throes, giving it a familiar, yet entertaining, look. The screenplay was delivered by Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, MADtv) and David Stassen (The Mindy Project), and is surprisingly funny. No, none of the work feels completely original, but the execution works and there is solid comedic timing between the two leads.

The movie centers on Bob Stone (Johnson) and Calvin Johnson (Hart). They went to the same high school, where Calvin was the big man on campus, sports star, most popular, all that sort of stuff, while Bob was fat and bullied. Years later we catch up with the two, Calvin married his high school sweetheart and works as an accountant, despite feeling he was meant for something more. Bob has shed all of his fat and packed on a ton of muscle, plus he works for the CIA. It also happens that Bob is in need of Calvin’s computer skills, leading them to reconnect on Facebook just before their high school reunion.

Of course, the reunion starts off well, but as Calvin learns what is really going on, increasingly wants to get out. Now, the problem is that with Calvin and Bob being seen together, everyone after them is assuming he is in on it, something that Calvin keeps saying he is not. In any case, they are involved in a plot that threatens the safety of the United States and only our mismatched duo can solve it.

The thing about Central Intelligence is that the plot involving national security is really secondary to the comedy, and well it should. The plot still matters and helps set up a lot of the comedy, but the centerpiece is really on Hart and Johnson and their ability to generate laughs. Hart has always been a bit middling to me, I am sure his stand up is probably funny, but the movies just feel somewhat off. As for Johnson, he carries the bulk of the weight here, and, for me, is the reason the movie works so well.

This really is a funny movie. No, it doesn’t break any new ground, but the laughs are genuine and the comedic timing is perfect. There is something about the way Dwayne Johnson carries himself and delivers his lines that is impossible to ignore, he has a charismatic presence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the laugh.

Central Intelligence is not all that smart, and not all that original, but it is still funny. There are funny throwaway lines, funny setups, and I just had a good time with it. Is it worth seeing? Sure. Will you remember it a few months from now? Probably not. It is a movie that is good for the moment. Just watch and have fun for a couple hours.


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