Monday, September 04, 2017

Central Intelligence: Watch It for the Comedy and the Actors and You'll Be Fine

Movie Review: Central Intelligence (2016)
Version: HBO on demand

Central Intelligence is a great vehicle for Kevin Hart, maybe not so much for Dwayne Johnson. For Kevin Hart, it shows great range as an actor. For Dwayne Johnson, it rips apart his image as a macho tough guy with softer edges -- his character is a vulnerable guy bullied as a teen, which despite reworking his tubby body into a muscular powerhouse wimps out at the sight of his former bullies.

That said, Central Intelligence is innocent fun for weekend entertainment. The gist of the film is Calvin Joyner (played by Kevin Hart), once elected in high school as most likely to succeed who finds himself 20 years later married to his prom queen high school sweetheart a less than successful accountant, while she's a full partner at a top legal firm. His biggest decision is whether to accompany her to the high school reunion, when out of nowhere comes Bob Stone (played by Dwayne Johnson), a dweeb embarrassed the day of the prom by bullies by forcing him in a full auditorium naked, to the roar of the crowd. But Stone is now totally different, chiseled into a slim, muscle-toned Adonis. Back in high school, Calvin had been Bob's only friend, offering Bob his letter jacket to sneak out of the auditorium, and he wants to make connections with Calvin again, meet up over some drinks. Rather than meet with his wife, Maggie (played by Danielle Nicolet) to discuss going to the class reunion, Calvin chooses the meet up with Bob. And thus ensues an unlikely alliance that becomes an enlistment to help Bob on a CIA mission to secure national secrets, much to Calvin's distaste.

Central Intelligence is a comedy, with Dwayne Johnson playing up a very insecure Bob Stone. It's almost creepy the ease with which he assumes this character. Kevin Hart is masterful as the man out of his element who definitely doesn't want to be there but shoved into the role, but still resisting all the way. Well into the film arrives Justin Bateman as Trevor, the high school bully become stock trader who amiably assists the secret agent duo in uncovering a stock trading code, but then turning on a dime to return to his evil self to torment them. He's actually quite good at playing a bully. Amy Ryan plays Agent Pamela Harris, head of a CIA team trying to stop Bob, who they suspect of being a double agent, and Bob, who they see as his accomplice. Johnson gets to flex his muscles and kick a few asses, so he isn't totally out of his element, and so Central Intelligence also gets to be a typical spy movie at the same time.

There isn't much by way of technology, design, or special effects to make this film stand out. It's all about the comedy and minimal action. Watch it for the story and actors and you will be fine. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

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