Movie Review: Central Intelligence

Spy comedy could have been a bit more intelligent

Central Intelligence
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
With Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul

Dwayne Johnson, formerly a wrestler known as the Rock, has proven to be a actor versatile with a gift for self-effacing comedy. He can be great when the support is there. Other times he is the best thing in a bad film.

He is teamed up with stand-up comic and actor Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence, a spy comedy that just a bit too predictable.

At the core of the film, there is a message against high-school bullying, but the film also wants to have its cake and eat it. The opening scene depicts bullying, and it is played for laughs. An overweight kid with Dwayne Johnson's face superimposed is dragged naked into a school assembly and tossed out (literally) to be laughed at by everyone.

Twenty years later, that person, now calling himself Rob Stone (and played by a now buff Dwayne Johnson), contacted the one person in school who showed him any kindness — Calvin Joyner (played by Kevin Hart).

Joyner was known as the Golden Jet, and was a top athlete and scholar, expected to achieve great things. Instead, he would up as an accountant in a firm that was far below his expectations of himself.

Stone sends Joyner a friend request on Facebook, and seems to be into unicorns a lot and reality only a little bit. Joyner agrees to met him as he has been thinking a lot about high school. A reunion is coming up.

Stone wants to go drinking and seems to be in his own fantasy land. His favorite film is Sixteen Candles, and he is sad the he will never be like Molly Ringwald.

Going to a bar inevitably leads to a fight, and Stone has some moves.

From the title, somebody has to be involved in the Central Intelligence Agency, and screen time is ticking. Could Stone actually be an agent?

That isn't clear for a long time. Somebody is trying to compromise satellite codes, which would render the US defenseless. Stone is either a traitor, or is being set up to look like a traitor, or is the only honest CIA agent left. Joyner has to decide what to do, as he keeps getting caught in the middle.

A series of shootouts and narrow escapes stands in for any plot. As actors, Johnson and Hart manage to be funny together, but not so much that they could be considered the next Laurel and Hardy. The chemistry is just a little bit off. They never seem to fully bond. The bickering partners scenario works only when the two people have established they really trust one another. These two are always a bit suspicious of whether the other one is fully in or out.

The film is a bit odd to say the least. How the naked kid from high school became a traitor / only honest agent is never covered. Stone has good physical skills but does seem a bit under-intelligent for the job. Some of that is his cover, but even when he is in full agent mode, he never seems to fully grasp things.

A film about saving the world from rogue satellites for some reason seems just as concerned concerned about the main characters getting to a high school reunion on time. The former would seem a bit more important than the latter to most people.

Stone also seems equally concerned with saving Hart's marriage to his Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) than with discovering who is behind the plot to end the world.

The film — directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who made the equally odd We're the Millers and the surprise hit DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story — has enough sporadic humor to make it enjoyable, but also lags in places when it is caught between comedy and drama. The film, in short, didn't have an intelligent enough script at its center.

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