The main guys in Central Intelligence sure were different 20 years ago, we see in the flashback that sets up the action comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
The Rock as Robbie Weirdicht was the picked-upon high school doughboy dancing in the locker room shower until the Mean Boys pulled him out and slid him out naked in the middle of the gymnasium floor during the middle of the last senior assembly — which was a pep rally, really, to the honor school hero, Hart’s Calvin Joyner, who looks at the bullies aghast and offers his letterman jacket to the bullied as a modicum of dignity.
Flash forward to the eve of the 20-year reunion, and Most Likely to Succeed Calvin is indeed married to his Prom Queen, who’s gone on to become a lawyer. But has he sits in his too-plain accountant’s office lamenting how his former assistant got a promotion he coveted, he accepts a Facebook friend invitation from a mysterious Rob Stone.
Enter the chiseled new version of his old classmate. Let the action comedy buddy movie begin.
The story co-written by Marshall Thurber, Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen has a little bit of all of the above, and the direction by Thurber in the one hour, 45 minutes allows Johnson and Hart to wring everything they can out of it.
Hart flops around with the physical slapstick and raises his irritability and confusion with the rising voice that movie-goers have come to expect these past few years, yes, but he’s not over the top. Johnson smacks heads and out-quicks karate chops and shoots enemies with the aplomb that fans have appreciated for a decade-plus, but he’s not outlandishly wild, either. The clincher is Johnson’s ability to draw laughs, too. He’s funny!
On the sensitive side, they both fit in quite nicely with the marriage-needs-mending, bullies-suck and who’s-really-the-villain elements of the plot, too.
As for the rest of the cast, they get all the help they really need from Danielle Nicolet as Calvin’s beautiful, intelligent and starting-to-get-fed-up wife and Amy Ryan as the dry-as-dirt CIA squad leader.
Nicolet apparently is more known for her TV work, though I’m not clued into her latest and most prominent IMDb listing as Jenna in Born Again Virgin. Great smile and presence.
Ryan, so good on TV for those few seasons for earning laughs and sympathy as Michael’s girlfriend in The Office, got me good here with her first well-timed jolt.
That was just one of my out-loud laughs during a sparsely attended morning Saturday matinée with my dear wife Karen at a big Regal Cinemas theater in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA. I didn’t care about letting it out. She was amused by the movie, too.
Can you buy The Rock being bullied in high school? Can you buy Kevin Hart being the Prom King? Do you think these two can have good on-screen chemistry?