Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Central Intelligence

   I love The Rock, and I think Kevin Hart is hilarious. The prospect of them doing a buddy-action/comedy movie though was kinda hard to sell me on right away. There was as much potential for it to be bland and unfunny as there was for it to be fun. Luckily, it was definitely more of the latter. The movie isn't high brow humor, nobody's going to remember it as a genre classic five or ten years from now. It's going to go down in history as a footnote in the entries for movies like 48 Hrs. and Rush Hour. Does that mean it's not a lot of fun? No. Central Intelligence gives you your money's worth when it comes to laughs and thrills.

   The movie's success depends solely on the dynamic between The Rock and Kevin Hart, and fortunately the two seem to be having an absolute blast, so even when the movie dips into cliche and trope ridden territory, it's still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is uncomplicated and silly, but that's okay. It's commercial, and expendable, but while you're watching it, it's a good time. It's junk food cinema. It's a giant 40oz icee with three different kinds of soda mixed in. It's the latest weird-ass food-Frankenstein that Taco Bell has come out with.

Can you even legally call that a taco? Either way... I kinda want one.
   The movie milks it's premise for all it's worth, and more often than not the jokes land- even if some of the best ones were given away in the trailer. The Rock plays against type (somewhat) as his character Bob Stone, a tough-as-nails CIA agent, also has a thing for unicorns, fanny packs, and the movie Sixteen Candles. He's socially awkward and a big goofy oddball, which had to be fun to play, so even when the gags get kind old, The Rock's charisma carries it through. He's pretty lovable and way over the top. Kevin Hart plays Calvin Joyner, the 'average joe' straight man to The Rock's wild character.

   He's an accountant who's frequently passed up for a promotion, has issues in his marriage and in general feels like he peaked in high school and that's that. So, obviously, when The Rock shows up, he's a blast from the past and the good ol' high school days, but bringing with him all the heat and danger of your average Jason Bourne flick... Calvin is in permanent freak out mode. And, who can blame him? The movie gets a lot of mileage out of Hart's ability to freak out convincingly (and hilariously) and The Rock's perfect smile. The movie doesn't seem to have much ambition beyond that.  

   What I didn't expect was how heartfelt the movie was. The characters, however stock they might be, seem to be written with genuine feeling behind them. Thus, the movie's climax might be the requisite shootout with explosions or whatever, but the real payoff is an emotional one, and much more satisfying than any action scene in the movie ever was. This was a smart move and it made the movie that much more endearing. It was silly nonsense from beginning to end, but it was sufficiently diverting and a lot of fun. Part of me wishes it was more like Bad Boys and less like Rush Hour, but for a PG-13 action/comedy, it wasn't awful. And, honestly, isn't that good enough for a movie like this? 

   The genre by design doesn't lend itself well to originality or creativity, so I commend the guys behind Central Intelligence for rolling with the basic concept and pulling out the stops where they could. The genre peaked and ripened with Hot Fuzz, and you really can't do anything after that in earnest. There'll never be another successful Rush Hour (though Skiptrace was fun) or another 48 Hrs. but for now we've got The Rock, who has surprisingly solid comedic timing, and Kevin Hart who's gotten his vanilla everyman shtick down to a T (see: Get Hard) in this ideal slice of junk food cinema. Central Intelligence is enjoyable and that's good enough for me. 

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