Thursday, June 23, 2016

[Review] Central Intelligence

There's no shortage of buddy cop comedies nowadays, but Central Intelligence has enough going for it to be enjoyable. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart are the team in this likable romp. 

The film begins showcasing their high school days: Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson) is a chubster outcast (it takes some seriously impressive CGI to make The Rock look like this) and a victim of mean and embarrassing pranks. Calvin (Hart) is the most popular guy in the school--Voted most likely to succeed. 20 years later, you could say things have changed a bit. Calvin is now a pushover at a low-level office job, and Robbie is now The Rock. I mean--Robbie is an exceptionally handsome man of herculean stature, and a badass CIA Agent. In a ridiculous turn that you just have to go with, Robbie ropes the nil-experienced Calvin into helping him with a dangerous espionage mission.

There's actually a significant way that Central Intelligence differs from recent buddy cop films we've seen. It sounds simple, but--the two leads like each other. Sure, they're mismatched in size and personality, but it isn't the usual head-butting scenario. The Rock and Kevin Hart demonstrate some solid chemistry, and the script packs some decent laughs. It isn't as hysterical and distinguished as The Nice Guys, but it's surely better than Ride Along 2 (which Kevin Hart also plays sidekick in).

One of my favorite lines comes when Calvin is confronted in a bar by a grumpy Tapout-wearing scumbag who utters "Bro" every few words. Calvin claps back by saying "Was that the last 'Bro'? 'Cause if it was then I'll talk." There's also an amusing flashback where Robbie recalls the death of his former partner in the field (a glorified Aaron Paul cameo). Jason Bateman appears as the guy who used to bully Robbie in high school, and whether it's an intentional reference to last year's excellent The Gift or not, it's a great casting choice. Oh yeah, and the running gag of The Rock slyly appearing out of nowhere is pretty funny. The humor hits more often than not, and even when it doesn't fully hit, the material manages to not crash and burn either.

The spy story gets a bit too convoluted and overly twisty for the sake of being twisty (yes, even for a spy story), and the action scenes leave more to be desired. These clunky aspects unfortunately drain some of the interest from the film. But underneath it all, there's a nice anti-bullying message and a push for overcoming obstacles and being yourself. Agreeable, for sure.

( 7/10 )

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