Thursday, 7 July 2016

Spy movie review: Central Intelligence

Another year, and more spy movies. This one is a comedy featuring the Rock -- reason enough to check it out.

This guy has been called 'franchise viagra', and this movie is no exception. Let's get into it. 

This review contains some spoilers.

Kevin Hart plays Calvin, a man stuck in a dead end job who feels he peaked in high school. With his 20 year high school reunion closing in, he s feeling especially down.

Until His Rockness, playing a bullied boy-turned-superbuff spy, turns up to catch up.

For the first few minutes, I thought I was in for a bit of a snoozer. While Hart made a believably put-upon Everyman, there weren't that many laughs, and the pace dragged.

And then Dwayne Johnson turns up as Hart's former classmate Bob Stone, and it's like the movie gets a dose of comedy steroids.

Part of it is charisma, the other part is the character.

Bullied at high school, and scarred by an embarrassing incident at his final assembly (as seen in the trailers), Bob is a wonderfully mixed up sidekick.

A lover of both guns and unicorns, Stone is the living embodiment of the old saying that no matter how old you are, you are still the same person you were in high school.

Stone is like an overgrown teenager. Still in hero-worship of Calvin, he yearns to be Calvin's friend, and to help Calvin out of his slump. Sure, he also needs Calvin's skills as an accountant to help on a secret mission, but it's all about the bromance here.

 The role requires Johnson to go to some extremely vulnerable and weird-borderline-stalkerish places, and he does so with complete sincerity. He is never too cool for the material, never allowing his ego to upset the character's extreme awkwardness. 

The result is one of his best performances. And his willingness to send himself up serves Hart as well.

In the role of straight man, Hart is a great counter-weight to Johnson.

Bob Stone is clearly insane, and Calvin is never completely won over by his new friend's antics.

 The rest of the cast are fine, but no one approaches the central duo for yucks.

Aaron Paul turns up as Johnson's deceased partner. Despite being the villain, he gets nothing to do (although the flashback to his faked death is hilarious).

Jason Bateman turns up as Johnson's former high school nemesis, and, in a surprisingly strong cameo, Melissa McCarthy appears as Johnson's high school crush. It's a sweet inversion of expectations, and adds another layer to Stone's character -- despite all his subterfuge and duplicity, his sincerity is real.

Overall, Central Intelligence is a decent comedy pumped a few notches above average by a great star in a great part. The 'spy' part of the movie is a bit underwhelming (the movie could use some better villains and more ambitious set pieces), but it doesn't matter when the laughs are this consistent.

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