At first glance the new Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart comedy vehicle, Central Intelligence, is another in a long line of big-budget summer movies that rake in the money not through cinematic innovation or noteworthy writing, but by sheer dint of the star power they are wielding. Taking a closer look, this newest work from director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and We’re the Millers) does little to change the cinematic status quo. However, what it lacks in these qualities, it makes up for by bringing consistent humour and a surprisingly large amount of heart to the table.
Opening 20 years ago at high school, we meet Robbie Weirdicht (Dwayne Johnson), an obese teen with braces who likes singing in the locker room showers. At the opposite end of the high school social scene sits Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joiner (Kevin Hart), an all-American, all-star homecoming king who doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. Key here is the sympathy he offers Weirdicht when the latter is humiliated in front of the entire senior year.
Skip to the present and Joiner is depressed, working as a middle-manager who has failed to become “the hero of my own story”. This often depressingly relatable idea of youthful hopes being dashed against the realities of adulthood sets the scene for a thoroughly transformed Weirdicht’s re-entry into Joiner’s life as a musclebound “bro” with a heart of gold, who just so happens to work for the CIA. From here, the plot becomes largely inconsequential: topical terrorist threat A must be stopped by cunning plan B, but not without a hint of tension through plot hook C.
What does shine is the chemistry between Johnson and Hart. Nearly all of their scenes illicit laughter, be it through slapstick (“I’m a hugger,” chuckles Dwayne Johnson’s now herculean Weirdicht as he crushes the comparatively Lilliputian Hart), or well-placed pop culture references throughout. Also of note are the positive messages the film communicates: that it’s ok to be a little different, to talk about your problems and that we should never stop striving for our dreams. Saccharine stuff but it’s well wrapped-up in comedy that rarely slows or comes across as cloying.
Central Intelligence certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s a competent, warm and, most importantly, funny summer comedy.
Central Intelligence is released nationwide on 1st July 2016.
Watch the trailer for Central Intelligence here: