Here’s a mainstream film which is a mix of action and humour and starring two names who were new to me.   What I expected was low-brow, un-funny stunts laced with foul language but what I saw wasn’t like that at all and much, much better.  The two leads came across as warm, personable and with real skill on display – a pleasant surprise.  If you want some light-hearted escapism, then you may well take to Central Intelligence – just don’t take it too seriously!

Thanks to Tegan Johns and Universal, I attended a preview screening at Hoyts Cinema, Garden City.

See you in the dark, Phil.


intelligence, yes, but heaps more heart in this action comedy

U.S.A. : 107 mins.: PG-13 :     3/5


In director, Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Central Intelligence, Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson) and Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) were fellow students in their graduation year of 1996 and re-unite via a web page that advertises a twentieth anniversary reunion.

Beginning with the 1996 graduation assembly, Stone (then known as Robbie Weirdich, which makes it easy to see why he went for a name change) is the overweight figure of ridicule (he had a penchant for dancing nude in the showers) while Joyner was the school ace – tops in everything from sport to drama.  As Joyner is receiving a bunch of accolades and cited as the ‘graduate most likely to succeed’, Robbie is humiliated by a group of guys who throw him (naked) onto the assembly floor (tastefully done).  Calvin is the only one to feel Robbie’s pain.  This is the (serviceable, though rather thin) premise on which the film is built.  But underneath the madcap capers, the cruel treatment o
f Robbie provides the film with the more sober theme of bullying.

Fast forward twenty years and time has turned the tables on the two.  Robbie is no longer Weirdich but Bob Stone and his overweight flab has turned to an imposing frame of solid muscle. What’s more, he’s now a CIA operative (or was, until he supposedly murdered his partner and ran off with some top-secret info. and is now being pursued by a team of agents). Calvin, however, is stuck in a dead-end job as a forensic accountant.

Bob is openly overawed at meeting his college hero and insists that Calvin be his friend.  However, the situation rapidly becomes a nightmare for Calvin when Federal agents, in pursuit of Stone (headed by a clever, funny, deadpan Amy Ryan as agent Pam Harris) start firing their weapons with abandon and the hapless (and now terrified) Joyner does his utmost to escape.

The teaming of an unwilling collaborator, swept along by the enthusiasm of an admiring partner has been used on many occasions as a comedic device (one of the better examples is Francis Veber’s Tais-Tois! in 2004, when Gerard Depardieu and the unwilling Jean Reno made a very funny duo).  Here, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart display some substantial acting skills and comic timing.  But it is the chemistry between them that carries the film.  They obviously enjoy each other’s company and bounce off each other effectively (be sure to stay for the end credits which have some funny out-takes showing scenes that collapsed in laughter).  Physically, they make a funny pair with the white, muscular Johnson (whose nickname of ‘The Rock’ has no regard for his skill and should be dropped) towering over the black and much smaller Hart.  While Johnson’s voice is deep and composed, Hart’s, by contrast, is high-pitched and frenetic (although, at times, a little forced).

The two actors are assisted with some snappy writing by Thurber himself, along with Ike Barinholz and David Stassen and the director moves it along at a brisk pace. While the plot becomes increasingly convoluted, the audience will be kept guessing as to what is actually going on.  There are a few laugh-out-loud moments amongst the general amusement and the film is consistently warm and entertaining, avoiding the crassness and silliness that kill the enjoyment of many, so-called comedies.

In a satisfying conclusion, the film turns full circle, with Johnson’s personal warmth and his character’s (‘gentle giant’) passive approach to aggression being well suited to underscore the key theme of bullying (with some former pranksters getting a delicious comeuppance).

Central Intelligence, with its two likable stars, slapstick and wild, improbable chases, should be a fun ride, as long as the audience follows the cast’s lead in not taking it too seriously.

Phil. 28.06.16. pbsailing@yahoo.com.au

(Central Intelligence will screen at Hoyts, Garden City from Thursday, June 30th.   Check the website or press for details).

                                 FIND ALL MY REVIEWS AT malti-media.com

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