Buddy flick big on laughs
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (M)
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul. Verdict: Getting the job dumb, smartly
THE pickings have been mighty slim for mainstream movie comedies for quite some time.
In fact, there hasn’t been one that has truly ticked all boxes of funniness since Trainwreck, and that was a year ago.
Therefore the arrival of Central Intelligence, a buddy action comedy that actually works, ranks as cause for mild and mirthful celebration.
The party starts early, and never lets up once two former high-school classmates are reunited in the days leading up to their alma mater’s 20-year reunion.
Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart), a star athlete and student, graduated as the unanimous pick in the Most Likely to Succeed vote. Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), a grossly overweight nerd, left as the overwhelming winner in the Definitely Going to Get Fatter category.
However, in the ensuing years, the predicted fortunes of both men have turned out radically different.
Calvin is now a run-of-the-mill accountant whose spirit has been crushed by crunching numbers all day. Bob has blasted away all that flab, and now works undercover as one of the CIA’s most decorated and dangerous agents.
While this isn’t the most promising set-up you could have for a typical comedy of opposites, the base storyline for Central Intelligence is nowhere near as important as the crackling chemistry shared by its two lead actors.
Johnson and Hart immediately click as a comic duo, so much so that the warped repartee of their characters becomes the most addictive and effective component of the film.
Johnson has always shown a degree of comedy smarts, but never to the markedly amusing (and expertly timed) level displayed here.
Johnson’s trademark screen presence and a surprising willingness to embrace the stranger traits of his role connects with viewers and confounds their expectations cleverly.
A slight downgrade to semi-secondbanana status also brings the best out of Hart, who has often crashed and burned in buddy flicks of a similar ilk.
There is an economy and relative sense of restraint to Hart’s work that even his most ardent fans will appreciate.
Most importantly, Central Intelligence stays in the same funny groove from start to finish.