ScreenCritics Adam takes a look at Dwayne Johnson’s 2016 ‘Central Intelligence’.
Considering that every wrestler in the WWE is essentially an actor, it is amazing that very few have transitioned into a blockbuster star. Plenty have tried, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Steve Austin all having cracks at making the big time and getting out of their niche, but all of those flopped with a strong of poor movies and most either returned to the WWE or started suing web publications. Yet a couple have broken through and Dwayne Johnson is one of them and is now one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars which he hopes to show with his latest film Central Intelligence.
Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart, Ride Along) was a star at high school and was the most popular kid. However now that he is an adult, he is dissatisfied with life as he is now just an accountant with seemingly no chance of getting promoted or advancing furhter in his life. So on the eve of his school reunion, he meets up with Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson, WWE Raw), once the bullied fat kid at school but has now transformed himself into a CIA agent, though he has got himself into a lot of trouble and only Calvin can help.
So in essence, Central Intelligence is a buddy film with Bob Stone taking an unwilling Calvin on his general misadventures as he tries to evade capture from the CIA agents that believe he is a traitor to the state. It’s a solid premise as the film uses plenty of the clichés of a buddy movie, but manages to guise it plenty of new stuff so you don’t really notice. Calvin is the straight man, with Kevin Hart doing a great job playing up his reactions to the madness that is Bob, who constantly comes up with new ways to be bizarre. It works as a comic conceit and the film does well to put the duo in new positions which can be mined for comedy.
And yeah, there’s plenty of laughs to be had. Hart is a very comedic actor and putting him in the straight man world is an ingenious move. While it may seem he may not be that good because he’s a very hyperactive performer, but that’s exactly why he’s good. He can play up his reactions incredibly well and by making them over the top, he gets good laughs as well. The scriptwriters also had good fun thinking of what crazy stuff they could get Dwayne Johnson to say, and to be quite frank they come up with some gold at times. I don’t how many takes it took to get Dwayne Johnson to say “I never could be Molly Ringwald.” but I imagine it was many because I couldn’t keep a straight face for that line.
All in all, this does lead to a few laughs, especially as the rest of the cast is very game as well. Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses) plays the bully who ruined Bob’s life when he was young, and he is particularly maniacal as an adult too, and his reaction to Calvin rubbing his butt on his glass door being the funniest part of the film. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) also gets a few good lines, though the but you’ll remember is when he says ‘bitch’ because that’s in his contract for every film he does nowadays.
There are some issues Central Intelligence though. While the film is funny at times, it often isn’t funny enough. Yeah there are great lines which will make you laugh and the odd decent set piece, but the film never delivers the laughs on a consistent basis. A movie like this needs to deliver the laughs on a regular basis to make sure that when you do the odd weaker joke, which is inevitable, you can continue to ride the wave of the previous one and still get a titter. This doesn’t, so for the longest time you just stare at the film in deathly silenced, being entertained but not exactly rolling out of your seat either.
Also I’m sorry but while Hart and Johnson do have good on-screen chemistry, I simply can’t buy their friendship in Central Intelligence. The whole reason for them reuniting is because Bob thinks kindly of him because in his lowest moment, Calvin helped him out. But the film never gives us a real reason why Calvin should trust and like him back. So really Calvin shouldn’t be able to trust Bob when he says he isn’t a traitor and there’s no reason he’d risk his life and wife to help Bob out when he is arrested, for example. This is where the film falls down, it can’t show us why the buddies would ever stay together.
We all know that in recent years, comedies have really struggled on screen so while Central Intelligence is no way near perfect, it’s just nice to get something that is at least entertaining at times. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are both very good comedic performers and that’s enough to make sure this movie isn’t a test of your patience, but it isn’t enough to make this the laugh a minute riot we have been waiting years for. It’s well worth a watch if you want something to relax to on a quiet night in, this film is fine but don’t expect anything too great.