By Jack Dignan
"Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson," says the poster for Central Intelligence, obviously referring to the film's two stars, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. These two actors are insanely talented, even if Kevin Hart does annoy me in a lot of the films he's in. Most will disagree with me there. However, I am a big fan of Dwayne Johnson, and so seeing him in this had me both excited and hesitant. But the advertising looked good so I was on board. And the final product was definitely worthwhile. Kevin Hart should only be allowed to be in movies with Dwayne Johnson because this film may just be his best work to date. Maybe.
Central Intelligence begins twenty years in the past. Calvin (Kevin Hart) is the most popular guy in school, adored by everyone, and Robby (Dwayne Johnson) is the fat kid everybody picks on. Fast forward to the present day and Calvin is a nobody, working every day at his accountant job. Just before his high school reunion, Calvin is approached by Robby, now referred to as Bob, and the two start to catch up. Bob, now super muscular, it turns out, is in the CIA, and his actions bring Calvin into his plan. What that plan is? Well, I might save that piece of information for the movie. It's a bit spoiler-y.
Armed with unicorn shirts and constant optimism, Dwayne Johnson gives a performance unlike any he's given before. His character is so unlike his previous roles that it's just hysterical. He's no longer the tough 'give a one liner' type of guy. He's the bullied high school kid with some strange interests and a loveable personality. His character goes on a strong emotional arc in the film and the payoff is extremely rewarding, resulting in a scene so ridiculous that it works, and featuring one of my favourite cameos from the entire film.
Kevin Hart, on the other hand, plays pretty much the exact character you would expect him to. He's the normal, loud and depressed middle age man who's life hasn't turned out how he hoped. Sound familiar? Exactly. Not only have you seen Kevin Hart play that character before in films like Get Hard, but you've seen that character on screen in so many other films. Granted, it does work in the scheme of things, allowing this buddy cop movie to work its magic and further the plot. Plus, Kevin Hart actually made me laugh quite hard. I didn't see that coming.
Despite plenty of unfunny "Kevin Hart is small" jokes, this film is extremely funny. The laughs aren't always consistent, but when they hit, they hit hard, The real problem is that this film is way too serious and convoluted for its own good. The plot attempts to be unpredictable and dramatic, and while this does make it an interesting watch, there are times where the drama overtakes the comedy, allowing the laughs to take a back seat while some more serious events unfold.
Surprisingly though, no matter how hard it can get to follow at times, the film is fast, to the point and when the action is going down, it's actually pretty well done, full of Dwayne Johnson's action star talent and Kevin Hart's loud comedy. They don't always work well on their own, but when put together in an action scene, it works to perfection. There are two stand out action sequences, one in an office building early one and one towards the finale, and both are a lot of fun. As is this whole movie, flaws and all.
To sum up, Central Intelligence is a convoluted and occasionally clichéd movie with more than a few hit and miss jokes, but for the most part, the film works, especially thanks to its talented stars. It's a fun, hilarious and surprisingly well made movie with a lot of heart. And Hart. I guess.