This review contains spoilers:
Kevin Hart’s been in just about every movie lately, it seems: Get Hard, Ride Along, Ride Along 2, The Wedding Ringer, The Secret Life of Pets, Captain Underpants…
Yes, I just double-checked Wikipedia, and he’s starring as the co-lead for the Captain Underpants movie. Don’t screw up, Kevin! Those books got me through early grade school.
Anyhow, when I first saw the trailer for Central Intelligence, I thought of how similar this looked like to the Ride Along series. To be fair, the trope has been played out in other movies: two mismatched partners (one often portrayed as hilariously incompetent) have to solve the case and save the day. Was I correct in my assumption?
Well, I’ve never seen the Ride Along movies (they were critically panned, so I’m probably not missing much), but the movie managed to subvert some of what I was expecting.
For instance, they’re not partners in the conventional sense. While all the trailers let us know of Dwayne Johnson’s character (Bob Stone) is that he works for the CIA and has co-opted Kevin’s character (Calvin Joiner) to work with him, the true motivations of Johnson’s character are kept secret. There are multiple sides to this mystery, and Calvin is co-opted numerous times by just about every faction for help of some kind.
So, in that way it was kind of refreshing, to see that the plot wasn’t exactly given away by the trailer. The movie itself is rather irreverent, with a number of outlandish situations and circumstances, and playing fast-and-loose with the rules of certain characters’ adherence to the laws of physics that it can at times appear Looney Toons (Bob Stone has a weird ability to seemingly teleport at just the right time and place to make it awkward for Calvin).
The plot, despite have quite a few players, was never confusing or obfuscated, which was a plus, and a necessity, since the target audience of this film isn’t looking for Tom Clancy level conspiracies to unravel. This film is primarily for laughs. Which it accomplishes to a degree.
I saw the film alone but felt it would have been a better experience with a larger audience and with some friends. My personal experience was that the film wasn’t too terrifically funny. In fact, the jokes in the trailer are executed better than they are in the film…which is quite an accomplishment for the trailer. I laughed at times, but I felt that I overcompensated by laughing out loud at jokes that were merely chuckle-worthy in an effort to justify going to the theater.
It’s not a bad film, but it’s not a particularly good one, either.
I’ll give it a sub-par 6.5/10. Better luck next time, Kev.