By Michael Kaye
Central Intelligence (Review)
You know who's been pretty inescapable lately? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson! It seemed like every day for the past couple weeks he was involved in something newsworthy, whether it's his involvement in Shane Black's Doc Savage film, set photos from Furious 8, or the first official trailer for Disney's next animated feature Moana. And it's no coincidence that this all seemed to have come out while he was busy promoting today's film Central intelligence, which pairs him up with Kevin Hart.
Here's the story. After he reunites with an old pal through Facebook, a mild-mannered accountant is lured into the world of international espionage.
Given Hart's not so great track record on the big screen, I was a little bit hesitant about this movie going into it (the tight embargo didn't exactly help either). The good news is that I had a blast with this one, it's definitely one of the biggest genuine surprises of the year. We might have just seen the beginning of the next great comedy duo, like Abbott and Costello, Will Farrell and John C. Riley and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Here are some of my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I have to talk about the cast. Who knew that Dwayne Johnson could pull of comedy this well. We saw a little bit of that in The Other Guys, but not to this extent. The fact that Kevin Hart dialed back and played the straight man worked extremely well, and resulted in some of the funniest moments I've seen all year. These weren't the only great performances in the film. We also had Amy Ryan playing Agent Pamela Harris, Danielle Nicolet as Maggie, Aaron Paul as Phil, and Ryan Hansen as Steve. There are also a slew of great cameo appearances that I'd prefer not to give away, but trust me, got a big laugh from the audience.
Part of the reason the movie worked so well was because of director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who's best known for films such as We're the Millers and one of my favorite all time comedies Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. This guy's comedic timing is on point. He's taken the basic formula from every other buddy cop movie and added his own flavor to it. I can tell he's an actor's director because of the way he was able to tap into our two main characters' strengths, while pushing them beyond their limits. I already mentioned how surprisingly great The Rock was as a comedian, but Thurber was also able to get a genuinely great performance from Kevin Hart. While he may be a great stand up comedian, on the big screen his manic presence doesn't seem to have the same effect. But once you reign him in, that's when he works the best. Thurber also handled the action scenes fairly well, which is kind of important for an action comedy. If Disney or Warner Bros. needs another director for their next superhero movie, this guy could answer that call.
The screenplay by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen was pretty great. It's not perfect, and I'll explain why later, but for the most part it gets the job done. I kinda dig the anti-bully theme of the film, as it allows for some quieter scenes that show a vulnerable side for Bob Stone. In fact, there were a lot of genuine heartfelt moments sprinkled throughout the film, which balanced out the big comedic set pieces. It's nice to see two films this weekend balancing out good messages with an entertaining story.
Finally, the soundtrack was awesome, especially growing up in the 90's. It's a heathy blend of rock and hip hop songs from the past 20 years, featuring artists such as Lit, 2 Live Crew, House of Pain, A Tribe Called Quest, Notorious B.I.G., and various others.
Now, there are a couple of negatives that I need to bring up.
First off, like most comedies, not every joke is going to hit bullseyes. There were just as many groaners as there were genuine laugh out loud moments. The ones I had the most problem with usually involved gross out humor. Luckily, those were only few and far between.
The other problem I had was just the been there, done that story. Yes, I understand that story should be the least of my concerns when it comes to a buddy comedy such as this, but it still deserves to be brought up. As soon as Bob mentions his former partner, that's when I started to figure out where the story was going, and while the execution of all the twists and turns was kinda fun, it didn't make the movie any less predictable.
Central Intelligence is probably my favorite comedy of the year. It's not as well made as Deadpool or The Nice Guys, but when it comes to the laughs, this movie delivered. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart are now a duo that I want to see work together more often, which looks to be the case with next year's remake of Jumanji. Chances are Finding Dory will sell out fast, so if you need a plan B, go check out Central Intelligence this weekend.
And now it's your turn! Have you seen Central Intelligence yet, and if so what are your thoughts? Also, what are your favorite comedy duos of all time? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and don't forget to vote for your favorite and least favorite Pixar movies over in the Geeks + Gamers Facebook group, as I'll be writing my next editorial based on the results. The poll closes Monday night at midnight, but until then, stay tuned for more content coming your way!