Movie Review: Central Intelligence (2016)
Early in the movie, Bob Stone, nee Robbie Wheirdicht (Dwayne Johnson), the former fat kid turned CIA agent, and Calvin “The Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart), the former BMOC turned accountant, return to their old high school, which, for Bob, was the scene of countless humiliations. The deepest was probably the one that opened the movie—when bullies toss Robbie stark naked into the middle of a school assembly. Everyone laughs. Except Calvin. He’s sympathetic and gives him his letterman’s jacket to cover himself up. Robbie/Bob never forgot that small act of kindness. He also never gave the jacket back.
Anyway, back in the old hallways, Calvin tries to bring this up—the humiliations—but Bob dismisses them, saying he doesn’t even think about them anymore.
Bob: Here’s the secret. You know what I did, Jet? I took all that stuff and I balled it up real tight and then I shoved it way down deep. And I just pretty much ignore it.
Calvin: That sounds ... really unhealthy, Bob.
The movie has a few such laugh-out-loud moments, and this was my favorite. I’ve loved The Rock since late ’90s WWF (I actually watched that shit for awhile), and Hart since seeing “The Z Shirt” sketch on SNL, and the two have great chemistry together. They’re the reason the movie works as well as it does. Plus we get a few choice cameos—particularly Jason Bateman as the former high school bully who may or may not have found religion.
But overall? Meh.
It’s another opposites-attract buddy action-comedy, with Hart playing the staid guy and Johnson the well-meaning but potential crazy CIA agent who may have gone rogue. This last bit is supposed to provide tension throughout—is Bob really a traitor?—when it does no such thing. Might as well ask: Is The Rock a traitor? No. So why bother? Because it gives Calvin no way out since even the CIA is after their asses? I guess. But the way the filmmakers prolonged the tension into the last reel was insulting.
Not to mention this: In the end, Bob gets his redemption at the high school reunion while Calvin gives up his staid job for a life of action in the CIA. I.e., he leaves behind the job most of us have (if we're lucky) for something that, when I was growing up, was morally suspect. Cf., Col. Flagg. Of course, since 1995, the CIA has had liaisons in Hollywood and have looked better as a result. Maybe accountants need a liaison.
The screenplay was written by two “Mindy Project” dudes, Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen, with an assist from director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also wrote-directed “Dodgeball” and “We’re the Millers.” His next project is “We’re the Millers 2.” Yes. Sadly, we are.