Buddy flick big on laughs

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

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.

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