Much like facebook, school reunions are well intentioned but usually only serve as reminders that the people you disliked at school have not improved with age and maturity. The enforced jollity of a school reunion usually serves up some grim surprises: the school hard man turning out to be gay, the most attractive girl in the year suddenly losing her looks to age and the misery of a brood of vomiting babies, Alan, the post op transsexual who insists on being called Chardonnay, bitter divorcees turning up with jailbait fiancés, several others not turning up due to prison sentences and of course decades old rivalries given a new lease of life on seeing one another again. All of which happened to the Editor and we’ll leave you to guess which, if any, was him.
Basically everyone changes and that’s the initial premise of ‘Central Intelligence’ where we first meet Dwayne Johnson’s Bob Stone as a morbidly obese boy singing in the school shower before he’s cruelly humiliated by bullies in front of the entire school with his modesty saved only by an act of kindness by Kevin Hart’s Calvin Joyner, the most popular student in the year. Fast forward 20 years and Calvin is now a mild mannered accountant who, via facebook ,agrees to meet up with Bob the Blob only to find that Bob Stone is now a muscle bound CIA operative who lures Calvin into the world of espionage. However with intelligence agencies after Bob believing that he is the criminal mastermind known only as ‘Black Badger’. It seems that Bob has rogue. It’s a, ‘Is he or isn’t he?’ plot that’s not dissimilar to Tom Cruise’s, ‘Knight and Day’ a few years ago but without the budget.
Essentially a mismatched buddy picture that Shane Black writes so well with films like ‘Lethal weapon’, ‘The Last Boy Scout’ and most recently ‘The Nice Guys’ and would have benefitted from a script polish by him because as amusing as it initially is the jokes soon peter out and relies heavily on the stars physical differences for its laughs and regularly reverts to film references for its gags with Kevin Hart frequently the butt of many of them (‘snack size Denzel’ being one of the better ones). Kevin Hart follows in a very long line of black stand up comedians who’ve moved into feature films and like many struggles to find a vehicle for his talents and it’s really Dwayne Johnson who really carries the movie and has shown in the past that he is equally capable of playing comedy roles as seen all the way back in 2005’s ‘Be Cool’ as a Samoan bodyguard as well as the more obvious action roles that his physique naturally lends itself too and with Schwarzeneggar’s career now apparently in terminal decline Johnson is the obvious go to guy for today’s action films.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who in the past has written the excellent ‘Dodgeball ‘and directed, ‘We’re the Millers’ this is not as strong as those and for UK audiences it makes the mistake of a ‘message movie’ – that of the cloyingly sentimental speech at the end about ‘Hey, we’re all human underneath’ which plays like something at the end of an episode of Jerry Springer. It’s an inoffensive 107 minutes with some not especially thrilling action and includes the increasingly popular gag reel on the end credits which has a decent joke at the expense of Johnson’s ‘The Rock’ moniker.
Here’s the trailer: