by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
Ladies and gentlemen – I think we have our first actually funny big studio comedy this year (and it only took a little over five and a half months). Central Intelligence, the newest comedy from director Rawson Marshall Thurber and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart, brings the laughs and also has a bit of a softer side, trying to send a message about bullying without shoving it down our throats.
Calvin Joyner (Hart) is the guy who peaked in high school. Everyone thought he was destined for big things but as his twenty year reunion comes up he realizes that he’s in an accounting job that he barely tolerates and is unhappy with the track his life took.
Enter Bob Stone (Johnson) – or as he was known back in the day, Robbie Weirdicht. Bullied in high school for being overweight and different, Bob remembered an act of kindness from Calvin that he still holds onto almost two decades later. It’s that memory that leads Bob to enlist Calvin in helping him with some payroll problems (as forensic accounting is Calvin’s specialty).
When Calvin gets a look at Bob’s files he starts to think something is up as they don’t look anything like payroll files. The next day, when Calvin’s house is swarmed by agents he learns the truth – Bob is a rogue CIA agent wanted for the murder of his partner and for trying to sell sensitive information to America’s enemies.
Bob professes his innocence and tries to enlist Calvin into helping him track down the elusive terrorist known as the Black Badger and clear his name.
Thurber has a knack for comedies that show a bunch of heart without getting too artificially sweet and gooey on the audience. The man behind Dodgeball and We’re The Millers shows once again that he can get behind the camera and capture comedy gold. Working from a script he co-wrote with David Stassen and Ike Barinholtz, RMT shows he has a knack for action too, as The Rock and Kevin Hart get more than a few chances to flex their muscles (so to speak) and get physical.
Speaking of The Rock and Hart, they have great chemistry together. From their social media “war” to promote the project while filming to the press junkets and tours they’ve been doing for the film now, the duo really seem to click – and it shows on screen (where it matters). I’ve always liked Hart’s stand-up but haven’t found a starring role that I’ve really cared for him in yet…until now. This just goes to prove that given the right script and right director, Kevin Hart is hilarious.
But the real show-stealer is Johnson himself. He conveys a confidence that always seems a little too sure – like he’s putting up a front to try and hide his real feelings. It’s a tough act to balance but he does it really well. There’s an especially telling scene where he confronts a ghost from his past and he goes from being muscular, confident Bob to Big Robbie. All his swagger is drained and he’d rather run from confrontation than deal with his feelings, which he says he’s “pushed deep down” and doesn’t want to deal with.
It’s emotional and sends a message that bullying stays with us. But it doesn’t hit you over the head with a mallet trying to prove that point.
Central Intelligence flows nicely and provides good laughs while The Rock shows once again that he has some of the best comedic timing in the business today. In a year full of studio comedies that promised laughs and delivered crickets, do yourself a favor and spy on this one.