Review: ‘Central Intelligence’ Throws Pebbles, Not Rocks
With comedic forces from the WWE and from the stand-up world, “Central Intelligence” had two wonderful ingredients and enough marketability, building great anticipation this Summer. I personally was excited to see The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) show off his comedic skills. For years he’s been making fans laugh with his charismatic promos in the WWE and with a few little gem performances in films such as “Be Cool” and “Reno 911!: Miami.” Kevin Hart on the other hand has been the top entertainer in the comedy world for some time now. His stand-up performances are brilliant and hilarious, and his movies, while some being very similar, have always tickled my funny bone in some way, shape or form.
It’s safe to say “Central Intelligence” had plenty of strength going into its opening weekend. Many of my friends and colleagues were excited to see the movie, while others didn’t have the urge to sprint to the theater but wouldn’t mind seeing it at some point. My story about seeing the movie started when my roommate told me Kevin hart bought 200 tickets for his fans at The Grove in Los Angeles. So, being the snatchers of opportunities we are, we immediately headed to The Grove and ended up getting three of the last twenty tickets.
Everything seemed to be perfectly aligned for a great experience, and then the film started. It did have a very strong opening few minutes, but after that is when things turned off for me.
Cinematics – 3
The number one aspect I can praise about this movie is its structure. Most characters, particularly the protagonist and their reflection character, go through some kind of arc during the story. Perhaps they start off as weak and by the end they are strong. They might be the arrogant, jealous type but then turn self-less and humble in the end. It’s usually a pretty simple arc, but it’s usually how the storyteller gets the characters to the end that is so intriguing. “Central Intelligence” did it nicely here. Kevin Hart plays Calvin, who was a track star in high school but now works a dead-end job as an accountant. Dwayne Johnson plays Bob, who was bullied in high school because he was fat but now is one of the CIA’s top agents. Calvin personally feels like he hasn’t done anything spectacular (fame & glory) with his life, keeping him hesitant about attending his high school reunion. Bob has a mysterious agenda and needs Calvin’s accounting skills to achieve his goal, but at the core of his character he’s still scarred from all the bullying he endured in his youth.
How it’s set up establishes a pretty predictable ending. You know Bob is going to finally get over the bullying and become comfortable with himself, and Calvin is going to realize there are more important things in the world than fame and glory. These are pretty typical character arcs for a buddy comedy, and the well-structured plot points get you through them in an efficient and smooth manner.
Where the film mainly falls short is with The Rock. Now, I’ve seen Dwayne Johnson portray several types of characters. From all the goofy stuff he did in the WWE as The Rock all the way to his hilarious performance in “Be Cool,” I always thought he could tackle anything. This role, Bob Stone, was the wrong one for him. Sure, it’s a great character with a wonderful arc, but when he’s brought to life in a disappointing way, then any kind of admiration disappears for the character. Johnson’s Bob Stone is a too-goofy, awkward and stiff CIA agent. There were times when Johnson looked like he was in pain while delivering some of his lines, which made me laugh but not in the way the film intended for me to. He fit the “look” of the role with out a doubt, and the fight scenes and physical demands of the role were no problem for Johnson, but this was a role for Terry Crews, not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. When he was supposed to be funny, he wasn’t. When he was supposed to say a line in a goofy way, it came out as Johnson trying way too hard. Very disappointing for me to see.
Focusing in on the action sequences, these were the most entertaining moments of the movie. Filmed to perfection by Rawson Marshall Thurber and his team, these moments had my heart racing and my belly laughing at times. Most of the laughs came from Mr. Hart himself, but I’ll get to that in the next section. My point here is the movie is a solid piece of filmmaking, but Dwayne Johnson’s acting brought the energy way down.
Entertainment Value – 2
Other than the action sequences and the technicalities of the script’s structure, the other aspect that entertained me was Kevin Hart. I’ve been a bit skeptical about him and his movies lately because they’ve started going down the “redundant” path, but Hart hit a home-run this time around. He played a similar character to many of his other ones, but the humanity and sympathy he was able to draw out, especially when Calvin professes his disgust with where his life has gone, allowed me see that Kevin hart has been working on his craft. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in more serious and darker humorous roles in the future, but this one had all the traits we love about Kevin Hart. And even if you’re not a fan of the man, I still say check this one out for the sole purpose of his performance.
Other than that, everything in between the action sequences came off as either dull, generic or predictable. One case of major predictability came from a bad casting decision. ‘Breaking Bad’s’ Aaron Paul plays Phil, Bob’s old partner who dies during a mission. Now, I love Aaron Paul and pretty much everything he’s done, but he’s popular enough to the point where one can say, “No, you don’t kill off Aaron Paul in the first 15 minutes and not have him come back.” So, when the search for the identity of a mysterious criminal, “The Black Badger,” becomes part of the plot, my mind immediately caught the “Phil is the Black Badger!” twist before the second act began, which took me out of my element. This could be because I’ve watched a lot of movies and have studied storytelling techniques, but this just screamed, “He’s the Black Badger!” right out of the gate. If perhaps they casted a lesser-known actor or a complete unknown, then this storytelling device would’ve worked in their favor. That didn’t happen during “Central Intelligence,” and while Aaron Paul is great as Phil, casting him hurt the film more than helped it.
Re-watchability – 1
If I was going to re-watch “Central Intelligence,” it would be because it’s on cable and nothing else is on. It might even be on in the background while I get some writing done. Other than that, there’s not much of a chance.
- Entertainment Value
This buddy comedy had all the right tools to be a summer hit, but it falls short in more ways than it really should've. Kevin Hart actually shows off more acting chops than just his famous comedic rants, but Dwayne Johnson is the real problem with the film. He's, of course, a great actor, but this role wasn't right for him, giving the whole film a stiff, awkward and uncomfortable energy. If you're dying to see the movie, then see it and enjoy the excellent action sequences and the few brilliant comedic moments. In my personal opinion, wait for it to come on Netflix or cable. While the action sequences are great, everything in between comes off as either dull, generic or predictable despite Kevin Hart's comedic efforts.
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