Saturday, June 25, 2016

Film Review: Central Intelligence

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Rush Hour starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker was a big hit because it was primarily an action movie with big, exciting, dynamic set pieces with a lot of humor mixed in.  But even if the jokes fell a bit flat, it was okay because you were there primarily for the action.  If it was a comedy with action elements mixed in, the jokes would have to be more hit than miss and the action thrill could be negligible.  But if in this second case, the comedy was not as good, the movie would suffer despite the action.

And that is the case with Central Intelligence.

The concept is actually full of potential.  Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the big man on campus at his high school twenty years ago, nicknamed the Golden Jet.  Bob Weirdik (Dwayne Johnson) was a fat weirdo who is horribly publicly humiliated in school and only Calvin showed him any compassion.  Now that the years have passed, Calvin is in a rocky marriage with his high school sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) and stuck in a dead end job when Bob contacts him and appears bold and buff.  One thing leads to another as Bob pulls Calvin into a comedic spy adventure.

The biggest problem with the movie is comedy/action dilemma mentioned above.  The movie decides to play to the comedy more than the action.  But the problem is that the jokes don't really connect.  There are a few laughs, but there are no incredibly memorable gags.  I can always tell when the jokes sail because I will find myself quoting them right after we leave the theater.  I am having a hard time thinking of more than one or two jokes I remember.  And because the action comes second, if the movie is not as funny, the movie drags.

Both Johnson and Hart are likable enough.  But they both have the same acting problem, Johnson in particular.  They don't seem to know the difference between making a persona and creating a character.  Johnson was an expert and building up is persona of "The Rock" when he was a wrestler and it served him well.  This involved being distinctively expressive in your face and body and exuding charisma, which Johnson has in spades.  But when it comes to him and Hart, there is nothing underneath the exterior.  When we first meet Bob, he comes on really strong and I kept waiting for Johnson to let us peak behind the curtain and see the character behind the outward crazy.  But there was nothing there, not even and inward crazy.  Hart also is incredibly expressive, but it never went any deeper.  This is a real shame because they are very talented and I do think that Dwayne Johnson has the raw talent to become an incredibly solid actor.  But he needs someone to discipline and sharpen his skills the way great directors did for Robin Williams and Jim Carrey.

And this lack of believability makes it harder to connect to the story.  None of the peril felt real and the comedic situations felt forced.  There is a mystery involving villain called the "Black Badger," but the answer to that mystery can be seen coming a mile away.

The movie almost has a really unexpected and powerful moment when one of Bob's high school bullies asks him for forgiveness.  It was a chance to do something mildly refreshing, and rarely explicitly Christian, but the writers took the easy way out.  Yet the script does capture how much high school bullying can effect how you see yourself, even as an adult.

Central Intelligence feels like a wasted opportunity. It's not that the movie is bad; there was nothing in it that significantly bothered or offended me.  It does have some wit and some charm but nothing to make it break through the glut of summer movies.

It is a quality that is not very high nor very low.  Central Intelligence is central in its mediocrity.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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