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This review must be prefaced with one thing: Central Intelligence is a completely ridiculous film. If you’re not a fan of Kevin Hart’s style of humour or Dwayne Johnson’s glistening muscles, you probably don’t have a soul, and also this film probably isn’t for you. If you are a fan, however, you’re in for a treat.
There’s little plot to speak of in this movie, but that’s forgivable since literally nobody is watching for the plot. In theory, it revolves around old high school acquaintances - Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart), coolest kid in school, voted most likely to succeed, etc., and Robbie Weirdicht, aka Dwayne Johnson’s face CGI’ed onto a chubby teenage body, school loser. The twist is, when they meet twenty years later, it’s Calvin with a boring accounting job and the newly christened Bob Stone who’s on the run from the CIA: a rogue agent.
The story’s full of people’s conflicting versions of events, “satellite codes” are at risk of being sold to “the enemy,” who goes by “The Black Badger” … need I say more? The premise essentially is that Bob needs Calvin’s “accounting skills” to hack into an auction site to see where the deal will go down. Honestly, that part doesn’t really matter. The real Hart (ha!) of the movie lies in the chemistry between Hart and Johnson. Hart’s physical comedy reaches new heights in the film, with his comedic monologuing coming in a close second. Literally nothing is funnier than seeing a grown man attempt a backflip and smash face first into the ground … twice.
The Rock hardly needed to act at all, playing an odd but loveable muscle man. Highlights included Bob Stone’s love of ‘corns (unicorns) and fanny packs, not to mention his catchphrase: “What whaaat!” As well as nailing the comedy, Johnson even displayed some skill at dramatic acting, putting on a very convincing sad face when confronted with his high school bully. The ultimate message of the film was an anti-bullying one, with Johnson’s badass recurring line being “I don’t like bullies.” This goofy comedy managed a touching emotional arc of coming to terms with and overcoming past traumas, proving that you have control over how much they shape you as a person.
The nostalgia element certainly packed an emotional punch, with their twenty year high school reunion fast approaching, and neither man where they expected to be. There’s a deeper message about life expectations vs. reality, but Bob’s childlike wonder at hanging out with his childhood hero certainly lightens the tone. Bob’s amazed that Calvin’s married to his high school sweetheart, but the “power couple” are on rough ground, opting for marriage counselling since Calvin revealed how dissatisfied he is with his life. This allows for one of the best comedic scenes for the last decade at least: Bob is undercover as the therapist, whilst Calvin must keep Bob’s identity from his wife to keep her out of the crossfire. The result is a fantastic montage of The Rock acting out a bizarre set of therapy role play exercises with Kevin Hart. There’s a lot of slapping, and “swaddling,” and the gag reel proves it wasn’t easy to film without laughing!
Action, of course, was also a big part of the film. The Rock certainly got to show of his fighting skills against a variety of people, ranging from drunken bar patrons to CIA operatives to school bullies. Knocking out his school bully cold was definitely the most satisfying punch of the film! Calvin helps Bob face up to the bully, whilst Bob, in a less conventional manner, manages to get Calvin to admit to the root of his dissatisfaction: he wants kids. Calvin simply gives Bob a motivational pep talk, whilst Bob fakes a near death situation involving a plane to get Calvin to open up - which pretty much sums up the relationship these two have. Calvin’s a pretty ordinary guy whose life gets shaken up by a huge, Sixteen Candles loving, slightly unstable guy, but they both end up learning from each other, and changing each other for the better.
There’s a cheesy-satisfying happy ending, of course, with Bob getting to stand up before the whole class of ’96 at the reunion and prove that he did not let his awful high school experience ruin his life. The film starts with the school bullies throwing a naked and mortified Robbie Weirdicht into the middle of a school pep rally, and so it comes a full circle with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking off all his clothes in front of a room full of people. It’s weirdly cathartic, not to mention easy on the eyes. Calvin and his wife make up and decide to have kids, and Bob even gets a steamy kiss from his two-lazy-eyed high school crush - a stellar cameo from comedy queen Melissa McCarthy! Romance is, of course, second to bromance in this film, and it really is the chemistry between Hart and Johnson that makes it such a delight. Here’s to hoping they make more films together!