Everyone remembers high school. Whether you had the time of your life, or you were counting down the days until graduation, those four years made some sort of impact on your journey into adulthood. Personally, I look back and thank God for contact lenses, Shea butter, and a bit more wisdom. Still, for me, high school wasn’t all that bad. But, no matter what your experience, “Central Intelligence” reminds us just how horrific or glorious those high school days might have been.
From “Get Hard” with Will Ferrell to “Ride Along” and “Ride Along 2” with Ice Cube, Kevin Hart has mastered the buddy comedy genre as of late. In “Central Intelligence”, he stars as the complacent accountant, Calvin Joyner, who misses his glorious high school days. Calvin finds himself reluctantly pulled into a CIA plot when he reconnects with the most humiliated nerd from high school, Bob Stone. Playing the once overweight nerd turned Hercules, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Hart’s hunkier counterpart who gets him swept away in an adventure of a lifetime. After being unwittingly roped into Bob’s world of espionage and shootouts, Calvin is shocked out of his near comatose existence.
There’s nothing new in “Central Intelligence”. We’ve all seen this movie before. You can almost time Hart’s comedic beats at this point, and the plot of the film runs pretty much in the same vein as any other buddy action comedy. A duo with opposing personalities hook up in order to solve a crime. Along the way, they find that they must learn to work together, or get defeated by the enemy. “Central Intelligence” in no way brilliantly transforms or breaks the mold for the genre. In fact, the shootout scenes in the film were unsettling for me considering the horrific tragedy that occurred in Orlando not even a week ago.
Still, despite the generic formula, a few things stood out. The Rock’s transformation into nerdy highschooler Robbie Weirdicht is CGI gold. Unfortunately, much of that spectacular opening sequence has been revealed in the film’s trailers. And while I appreciated the narrative allowing the adult Bob to cling to his love for fanny packs, unicorns, and John Hughes films, this character simply isn’t all that convincing on a towering figure like The Rock.
Speaking of towering figures, the physicality in the film is striking to watch. While the stunts are amusing, The Rock’s huge physique dwarfing Kevin Hart’s more compact frame makes the action sequences even more hilarious. The stark contrast got me wondering about how the cameramen maneuvered around the twelve-inch height difference between the actors.
There are some fantastic cameos in the film. From “Breaking Bad” alum, Aaron Paul, to some of the most visible faces in comedy right now, “Central Intelligence” is packed with star power. From that perspective, it’s interesting to see just how Hart’s target audience has grown since his “Soul Plane” days just over a decade ago. Between the typical dick and fart jokes (that somehow still manage to snag a few chuckles) there were some true laugh-out-loud moments.
And though the overall message of the story is corny at times, its value cannot be overlooked, given the climate that we live in. Bullying someone for their appearance, passions, or general way of life is always a terrible idea, and one act of kindness can truly change another person’s outlook on life.
Overall, “Central Intelligence” isn’t “48 Hours”; hell it isn’t even “Bad Boys”; and if you’ve seen a Kevin Hart film in the last few years, then you’ve certainly seen this film already. However, if you enjoy Hart’s stand-up comedy, and his other numerous flicks, then you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. Be warned though, if you’re looking for a bit more “intelligence,” then this probably isn’t the buddy comedy for you. But, at the very least you’ll get a nice glimpse of The Rock’s butt, which is always a solid consolation prize in my opinion.
“Central Intelligence” opens nationwide in the USA on Friday, June 17.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami