Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Central Intelligence Review

A little Hart and a big Johnson! Central Intelligence is the third buddy comedy in the last couple months. Keanu came our way at the very end of April and The Nice Guys showed up in May. And now we have Central Intelligence here in June. This is actually the fourth movie in this genre to show up this year, but I skipped the first one back in January, that being Ride Along 2. I really hated Ride Along and thus I didn't care to see the sequel in theaters. I might catch up on it before the year ends, but we'll see, but I'll be referencing the first one a time or two just because Ride Along and Central Intelligence share a co-star in Kevin Hart. Keanu and The Nice Guys, though, were two movies that I enjoyed and I was looking forward to Central Intelligence. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson seemed like a hilarious duo and the trailers made me laugh quite a bit. And really, when it comes to comedies, the most important thing is for the movie to make me laugh. Easier said than done, though, because I can get picky with my comedies. A lot of things that certain movies or TV shows try to pass off as "humor" just doesn't work for me. In this instance, I am happy to report that Central Intelligence did its job. It made me laugh and thus I feel comfortable recommending it to all of you!

In Central Intelligence, we start off with our comedic duo in high school. Kevin Hart is the most popular kid in school and is voted the most likely to have a very successful career. Dwayne Johnson on the other hand is kind of an oddball who gets teased and bullied by most of the school. Kevin Hart is the only one in the school to stand up for Dwayne Johnson and Dwayne Johnson remembers and appreciates that. Fast forward 20 years and both of their lives have gone in completely opposite directions than what people thought. Kevin Hart is an accountant who doesn't really like his job even though he is really good at it. He married the girl of his dreams, but their marriage is a bit rocky. Thus he's almost at the point where he's having a mid-life crisis. Dwayne Johnson has now become extremely buff after being really fat in high school and has joined the CIA. As a member of the CIA, he's got himself caught in a really sticky situation that has the CIA actually chasing him and in order to try to clear his name and solve a certain mystery, he reconnects with Kevin Hart in order to take advantage of his expert accounting abilities. Plus Kevin Hart is the only person he's ever trusted. So yes, just like with both Keanu and The Nice Guys, we now have a movie that is not just a comedy, but is an action comedy.

Doing a successful action comedy is much trickier than doing a straight-up comedy and this here is the difference between Keanu and The Nice Guys. Not only do you have to get the comedy right by actually being funny, but you also have to get the action right, meaning your stars have to be believable action stars in addition to being funny comedians. Thus there is a tricky balance that needs to be found. The Nice Guys hit all the right notes with this. Not only is it one of the best action movies of the year, but it was also laugh-out-loud hilarious with a pretty good story. Keanu made me laugh a ton, but the story was a bit shaky and the action wasn't that good. Key and Peele probably should've focused a lot less on the action in Keanu and thus the balance was way off, even though the movie was still entertaining enough to get a pass. Central Intelligence is probably right in the middle of these two movies, with a slight skew towards Keanu. The action is fine and entertaining enough, but it's certainly not what you're going to walk out of the movie bragging about. And the balance between action and comedy is a bit off at times, especially in the second half. At times, it can't decide if it wants to be an action movie or a comedy and thus it gets a bit rocky with both.

See here's the deal. If you want to be an action movie with comedy, you have to focus first on making it a good action and then sprinkle enough comedy in the right places to make it work. This is where The Nice Guys succeeds beautifully. But if you want to be a comedy with action, you have to focus first on making your movie funny and then sprinkle enough action in the right places to make it work. Central Intelligence is going for the latter. They definitely get the comedy right, but where they struggle is the idea of sprinkling the action in the right places. It's over-bloated with action and I got the feel that the director here didn't quite know what to do with all that action, thus the action comes off as more cheesy and far-fetched instead of being cool and awesome. Then you go check out the director's filmography and everything makes total sense. This is Rawson Marshall Thurber, the director of We're the Millers and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. This dude is a comedy director. Granted, Dodgeball is a horrendously unfunny movie for me and I never saw We're the Millers. But still. Comedy. Not action. They should've just stuck with comedy here and it probably would've been a much better movie.

That said, what did make this movie work were our two leads, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. Kevin Hart is one of the most popular comedians right now, but for me he's hit and miss. He's like one of those wind-up toys, but he doesn't wind down. He's always super wound up and thus is bouncing everywhere super fast and talking a hundred miles an hour. Sometimes it works really well and makes you laugh the entire time. Other times, like in Ride Along, he becomes extremely annoying really fast, but won't shut up or slow down and thus makes you cringe as you just want the movie to end. With how much I hated Ride Along, I was a bit nervous that this would be a repeat of that, but thankfully this case is the former for Hart and not the latter. He's actually really funny in this movie. Part of why he's really funny is they actually do a good job of holding him back just enough so he doesn't go completely crazy. They do this by making him more of the voice of reason. He's not interested in going on this crazy journey with this friend who he hasn't talked to in years. He just wants to get back home with his wife and his job, but since Dwayne Johnson dragged him into this situation, that's not really an option and so he has to do his best to make it through.

Dwayne Johnson, though, is the one that's a teenager stuck in a 40-year-old body. Yes, he's the CIA agent, but he's the weird, goofy CIA agent, which is a bit different for Dwayne Johnson. He's a bonafide action star who has proven time and time again to be a complete boss who can totally carry a movie when you let him be serious, mean, and kick some trash. The fact that he's the silly, goofy one in this movie and Kevin Hart is the voice of logic and reason makes it so both of them are out of their element, but the two make it work. They could've just let Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart and let Dwayne Johnson be Dwayne Johnson, but they kinda reversed their roles and thus made them have to rely on each other more to really pull it off and this is what they do very well. It's an odd pairing for sure putting the biggest star in Hollywood (literally) with the smallest star in Hollywood (also literally), but it turns out they have amazing chemistry together and even though the action in the movie didn't work out as well and the story was weak and predictable, these two stars still did their best to make this movie work, despite some weak efforts from the writers and director of the movie. It made you want to see these two together again on screen. Which we will. In... Jumanji. Uhhhh....

Yeah. Overall, if you're looking for a good, entertaining movie to enjoy and you're tired of all these sequels getting thrown at you, Central Intelligence is a good option. It's not "original" by any means as it's the third action comedy in two months. But it's not a sequel. If you're looking for comedy, you've got it here. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart make for a great comedy duo who have to rely on each other because their roles are completely reversed as far as what they are both used to doing and it works. Does it mean I'm excited to see them in Jumanji next year? Not really. I think they need to leave that movie alone. But it could work, I guess. These two have now shown that they work well together. And they will have Jack Black joining them. Jumanji aside, I would like to see more of these two together in some sort of way because they made this movie work. As I detailed in this, the action doesn't work super well, which is disappointing because Dwayne Johnson is one of the best action stars of our day. But that blame goes on the director, not on Dwayne Johnson. And yes, the story is weak. They try to make this movie a mysterious, almost whodunit movie, but you see everything coming from a mile away, especially if you pay attention to the rest of the cast. But despite this, I still had a blast with Central Intelligence and thus I will give the movie an 8/10.

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