By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Kevin Hart’s comedies have been either hit or miss for me. Though I enjoyed Get Hard and About Last Night, I had problems and complaints with the Think Like a Man movies, both Ride Along films and The Wedding Ringer. I like Hart’s comic stylings, but too much of his squeaky, fast-talking delivery grates after a while. Another difference (aside from writing) between an enjoyable Kevin Hart movie and a not-so-enjoyable one is his main co-star. The new Kevin Hart comedy Central Intelligence pairs the diminutive Hart with an actor who is Hart’s physical antithesis. Charismatic giant Dwayne Johnson may dwarf Hart in size, but the two actors make a near perfect match in an otherwise formulaic buddy comedy.
Hart stars as Calvin Joyner, a somewhat bored accountant who misses his high school days when he was an over-all superstar. Bob Stone (Johnson), on the other hand, had a totally different high school experience. Back in those days, Bob was known as Robbie and was a sweet and shy overweight target for bullying and ridicule. Twenty-years after graduation, the time has arrived for their class reunion. A few days before the class of 1996 reunites, Bob contacts Calvin via Facebook and sets up a meeting. Though Calvin expects an enjoyable night of catching-up, the amiable accountant is in for a big surprise. He discovers that Bob is a C.I.A. operative in need of Calvin’s help for his latest mission.
Written by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber, and directed by Thurber, Central Intelligence is a fun action/comedy, but a somewhat messy and predictable one. The humor works fine with a few comedic fails here and there. My main issue with the comedy has to do with the redundancy of some gags and a lack of variety when it comes to the humor. Certain amusing character traits lose some of their charms after the humor based on them wears them down. The story is a bit more complicated than it needs to be and comes across as a hodgepodge of ideas stolen from high school reunion comedies, action/comedy buddy flicks, and espionage thrillers. On the other hand, I will say that the action plays out well and that Thurber and his writers do a decent job building up the suspense.
The fact that Johnson and Hart are so enjoyable together makes this flawed movie even more likable and watchable. The chemistry in their comedic exchanges is almost perfect. The two actors have a great time taking turns at both roles of straight man and comic. Joyner may be a cool and easy-going character under normal circumstances; however, he definitely loses his composure in the face of danger. As for the badass agent Bob Stone, he is still a lovable, sometimes goofy geek who might actually be too nice for C.I.A. work. Both actors perform well in their roles and prove to be the match-up Hart has needed for some time. The supporting cast consists of Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Aaron Paul, along with a few fun surprise cameos. All of these actors perform as well as their roles demand, but the show obviously belongs to the lead duo.
The movie does push the limits of its PG-13 rating, so parents may not want to bring any children under the age of thirteen to this film. Because of the strong language, violence, and some mild nudity, I expected the movie to have an R-rating. As usual parents should keep these warnings in mind when deciding whether the material is appropriate for their children. As for grown-ups without any restrictions, I feel confident recommending this film as a satisfying and amusing action/comedy. Because it isn’t a must-see on the big screen, I wouldn’t recommend spending more than matinee prices.
The film is, however, good enough to warrant a sequel, in my opinion. Kevin Hart has finally found a great comedic partner in Dwayne Johnson and I would love to see both of them in another Central Intelligence film. There is plenty of room for improvement, but with a better script, a superior sequel is not impossible to pull off. I know I’d rather see a follow-up to this movie instead of another Ride Along.