Between the Rock and Hart

IT’s nice to see a buddy comedy every now and then, and fans of wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will not be disappointed with his performance as Bob Stone in Central Intelligence.

His screen partner is Kevin Hart, playing an ordinary Joe called Calvin Joyner despite being voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school.

This is their first comedic cinema pairing but the movie works because Johnson and Hart do click on-screen, like today’s comediennes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Sisters) and the not-so old-timers Arnold Schwarzenegger (Actor), Danny DeVito (of Junior, Twins fame).

“The Rock” and the diminutive Hart share a believable chemistry and that certainly helps in making an unoriginal script work.

The story is about Hart’s Joyner, who is a bored accountant and whose wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) insists they attend their high school’s 20-year reunion. Maggie was prom queen to Joyner’s prom king back then.

The movie opens with Johnson’s young self, then called Robert Weirdicht who was an obese kid. The scene shows him being terribly bullied by everyone except Joyner. This was brought to fulsome fruition with a buck-naked Robbie at the school’s backetball hall. Only Joyner gave his jacket to cover Robbie’s “assets”.

Thus began Robbie’s fixation on the likeable Joyner.

All grownup now, one day in the office, Joyner gets a Facebook friend request from Robbie/Bob Stone.

They meet up and Stone is like a lovable puppy when he meets his idol. After a drink and a fight at the bar, Stone ends up at Joyner’s house, and stays over.

He is really a CIA agent who may or may not have gone rogue. He has stolen some secret codes, and as CIA agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan, Bridge of Spies) has it, has betrayed his late partner and is about to commit treason.

But what Stone tells Joyner is that he is undercover to learn who exactly is the traitor of the scenario, code-named as “The Black Badger”.

Somehow, Joyner bumbles into helping Stone and it is only clear in the end who is the “The Black Badger”. But that’s not really the point of this movie.

There’s much fighting in the movie but director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story fame) lets Johnson deliver the punches is electric style.

Only the first fight scene (at the bar) is ingenuous for trickery; the rest are fisticuffs, really, and a bit boring.

What elevates the scenes is the dialogue with its references to cultural icons like calling Joyner “a black Will Smith” or wanting to be like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (a 1984 comedy movie which made people go “awww” back then).

The movie leaves some memorable take-homes like Stone’s “I don’t like bullies” message which he sends home with a tight-fisted wallop.

The other indelible keepsake is Johnson’s sincere performance as Bob Stone, be he a therapist, CIA agent or friend. At the end, Johnson goes full circle, appearing buck naked again but this time, willingly because he has a fine body to show off. As if we all didn’t know, but it’s nice to get time to admire.

Central Intelligence is a fun watch that will have cinema-goers laughing out loud at some of the antics between the debut comedy pair, Johnson and Hart.

We can expect more from this pair in this genre. In the meantime, keep smiling with this movie.


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