We haven’t really gotten a Kevin Hart film that is on par with his stand-up comedy. Heck, it’s possible that we never will. Humorous reactions aside, he’s a storyteller. And a very good one. Maybe writing a film will prove to be his fit, but for now, we get sporadic characters, mostly just thrown into comedic scenarios and told to swim. Fortunately, it hasn’t hurt Hart’s star quality and people still flock to the theaters to go see him. But still, we had yet to see him take on as compelling of a character as his role in Central Intelligence.
Back in high school, Hart’s character, Calvin, was the most popular guy in school. And 20 years later, he fears that his best days are behind him. His classmate, Bob (Dwayne Johnson), was an overweight kid who was horrendously bullied all his life. In school, Calvin was the only one who was nice to him, and Bob developed somewhat of an obsession with Calvin. Which would be creepy if Bob wasn’t a tough CIA agent.
Throughout, you’re never quite sure whether or not you trust Bob–which could probably be avoided if the filmmakers didn’t want it to happen so badly. But it’s fine, since it makes the experience more enjoyable for us as well.
The film wants Johnson’s character to be the central figure, but Hart’s is far more interesting. The struggles he deals with are touched upon briefly early on, but mostly forgotten about as the film progresses.
The chemistry between Hart and Johnson is a brilliant discovery and one that hopefully sees the light of day again. The fact that Johnson isn’t a comedian works in the film’s favor. The writers can do what they do best and fully invent a whole new person without having to rely on the stylings of an already-established comedian. That job is reserved for Hart.
The character the writers create for Johnson is hilarious. And he commits fully to it. His Facebook page states that he loves unicorns and guns. In person, it’s apparent he also loves fanny packs.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber has fun with these little idiosyncrasies. He knows what the audience will react well to. Even the subtle stuff.
The plot isn’t too complicated. It tries to be, and it’s appreciated, but it mostly consists of a format that has proved to work time and time again. We won’t complain. Nor can we. And luckily, there’s just enough to it to show that this is more than just a vessel for two stars.
For perhaps the best Kevin Hart film to date, the laughs aren’t over-the-top the whole time, but usually you’ll at least have something to smile about. It’s entertaining from beginning to end.