Central Intelligence

“Central Intelligence” starts with a flashback to high school. Kevin Hart plays Calvin Joyner. He is the popular scholar-athlete, who everyone loves. I can’t even recall all of the sports he excels in.  And he’s also dating (and in love with) the most beautiful girl in his class, Maggie, played by Danielle Nicolet. The film opens at a pep rally, led by Calvin and the principal of the school.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with some incredible CG that you can see in the trailer, plays his opposite, Bob Weirdicht, the overweight, socially-inept kid. During that pep rally, a group of bullies drags him out of the shower, naked into the middle of the gymnasium. Just about everyone, with the exception of Calvin, the Principal, and Maggie, erupt in laughter. Calvin takes pity on him, and gives him his letterman jacket to cover himself up while he walks back into the locker room in shame.

Cut to several years later. Calvin is now an accountant, unhappy with his job, being overlooked for promotion. He’s married his High School Sweetheart, but their marriage may have hit a slight bump. And his high school reunion is coming up and he feels embarrassed about showing up, not having met the promise of his ‘Most Likely to Succeed” designation there. Enter once again, Bob (who’s changed his name to Bob Stone), who contacts him out of nowhere. Bob is still plagued by the bullying incident, but he has never forgotten Calvin’s kindness to him on that day. But it turns out that Bob may have ulterior motives, that goes beyond the need to reconnect with the only person who treated him well back then. It turns out that Bob has joined the CIA.

Just about everything I said above, you can see in the trailers. What the trailers don’t tell you is that there is a real story here, where you, as an audience member are never really sure about just what CIA agent Bob Stone is up to. Well technically, you can figure it out if you know enough about the genre. But the movie tries to impart that illusion, so that you understand that Calvin is never really sure of what Bob is up to. For a lot of the film, Calvin isn’t exactly sure if he can trust Bob, if Bob is on the side of the angels, or if Bob is just crazy or if he’s a traitor. And Bob gives Calvin a lot of mixed signals. And that kind of works in the film. But…

From a believability standpoint, Bob is not a believable character. A lot of what he does is just strange, even after you find out what is what. You can chalk that up to Bob just being a weird character in a comedy, and that’s really the only reason why he is the way he is — to serve the comedy. Which is fine. And I don’t want to stress the unbelievability of a lot of things too much, because Central Intelligence is funny.

I haven’t seen a lot of Kevin Hart films, honestly. I’ve certainly seen Dwayne Johnson, and he’s usually quite good (and I’m not saying this because he made the transition from Professional Wrestling into Acting.  I’m not judging him on a curve. — he’s actually become a decent actor, and he is quite charming in this, even while he’s being… odd. And Kevin Hart is pretty funny here. I’ve never been a huge fan of his — his stand-up is ok. But he’s pretty good here.

Besides what I’ve already mentioned, the film is funny, and if you want to have a laugh at the movies, I think you can’t go wrong with this film. Certainly, not all of the jokes hit. There’s a certain degree of discomfort that comes from having bullying as a theme and a subplot in a comedy — and maybe that’s partly because I was bullied relentlessly by one specific kid in Jr. High. Don’t expect that to be handled in the same way that a more serious film might deal with it. But as I said, it IS a comedy, and it certainly succeeds at that.

So I definitely recommend this film.

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