by Michael B. Hock
Let’s start this review with a theory of mine: It’s impossible not to like the Rock. Whether decked out in a tutu and wings in The Tooth Fairy or playing a bad guy in whatever the hell Doom was, he’s a pretty likable guy. So, Central Intelligence pretty much started out as a four on my little scale of whether or not you should see this movie. Thankfully, the movie manages to live up to a lot of expectations.
Central Intelligence is about Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart), a semi-successful accountant with a big home and a beautiful wife Maggie (Danielle Nicolet). However, Calvin is in the middle of a mid-life crisis: he pretty much peaked in High School where he was the most popular student in school. A gifted athlete, loved by teachers, adored by students… everyone loved Calvin. On the opposite end of that spectrum is the made for insulting named Robbie Weirdick (Dwayne Johnson, pretending we still don’t call him “The Rock”), a morbidly obese nerd who disappears after an incident where he is thrown into the school gym, naked, by bullies.
Twenty Years later, Robbie now goes by the much more Rock-like character name “Bob Stone” and is a rogue CIA agent who needs Calvin’s help in solving an international something or other orchestrated by someone wanting to be a super villain named “The Black Badger” who also may or may not have framed Bob for the murder of his partner (Aaron Paul playing Jesse Pinkman in the CIA.). Together they launch on a hijink fueled adventure. All the while they’re pursued by real CIA agents, Calvin tries to save his crumbling marriage, and before their 20 year High School reunion. Think they can do it? (Spoiler: Probably.)
Let’s get something else out of the way semi-early in this review: no one is going to be clutching an Oscar, thanking the cast and crew of Central Intelligence for anything. Not that it’s a bad movie by any stretch, it’s a fun movie. It’s the type of movie where two guys jump out of a window, land on a giant monkey, then steal an Uber car and you think “that sounded like fun” rather than the horrifying experience that it would probably be.
Johnson’s charisma is on display in full force in this movie. I have no problem with Kevin Hart… in fact, I really like Kevin Hart, but somehow, Johnson made him even MORE likable. And it’s needed, Johnson’s character is one that never really grew out of high school, still idolizing Hart’s Joyner and stuck in the past with flashbacks to the incident that made him leave school. Even his behavior is an odd combination of a man who doesn’t care what other people think – he has a fascination with unicorns and a lot of humor is derived from watching the Rock run around with a purple unicorn shirt – and a man that was never given the chance to grow up because he is so stuck on this one event. Hart is simply excellent as an everyman who’s pulled into something that he doesn’t want to be in. He also doesn’t go over the top, and he’s easy to relate to.
If I had one complaint about this movie, it’s that it seemed to be harboring a much darker movie that may have been removed in the editing process. Early on, there’s a thrown off comment where Weirdick showers at the school in the morning frequently, as if there was some reason he couldn’t do it at home. Weirdick/Stone is clearly manipulating Joyner early on, appealing to his time in High School where he might have peaked. Some of Johnson’s charisma is spent on what may be clear manipulation, but the movie pulls back into more of a fun action comedy, instead of the dark revenge comedy that it may have been. I wonder if there’s a version out there that relies more on this darkness, or what could have been. But I’m happy with what we got.
However, this is minor. Like I said, the movie is just fun. I don’t know that I need to say much more about it. It’s got some good action sequences. The whole list of spies or ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s just a great movie that deserves some of your time.