I giggle every time I hear the tagline for Central Intelligence: Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson. Honestly, I warned myself that that might be the best laugh of the whole movie.
I may have been a bit hasty in that assessment.
While I’m a fan of his standup – I’m a Grown Little Man captured some parenting truths that I didn’t know I needed to hear out loud – I didn’t love Hart’s Ride Along with Ice Cube. I mean I didn’t hate it, but that’s not an endorsement. With Ride Along 2 coming out soon, I was worried that Hart was turning into a one trick pony.
Exhibit A: Get Hard. This movie was good for a chuckle, but it wasn’t laugh out loud funny like I was hoping the combination of him and Will Farrell would be. They seemed to improv wonderfully together, but the two of them together was, at times, overwhelming. That and the plot’s reliance on race and class as its only jokes left me wanting. It boiled down to an odd couple movie in which male-friendship starts under sketchy circumstances (a lie) and evolves into something real. Which leads up quite naturally to…
Exhibit B: The Wedding Ringer. Here Hart stars alongside Josh “the voice of Olaf” Gad. It’s the story of two men who are nothing alike who become intertwined based on a lie – wait a second! This feels so familiar.
Along side Hart is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He is basically a professional muscular teddy bear and charmer. We don’t know what to do with him when he ventures outside of that particular Venn Diagram. He’s also had his share of repetitive movies even though he’s shown tremendous range as an actor.
But, since I follow the Rock on Twitter and Instagram, I was hopeful. The videos wars he and Hart had on IG were great and gave me hope. Their chemistry is more than apparent in those short clips. But the question was: would they be able to sustain that palpable chemistry for 114 minutes?
YES, she screams for the nonbelievers. Dwayne Johnson goes toe-to-toe with Hart in terms of comedic timing and delivery – and that’s no easy feat. They both ostensibly play the straight man in the duo, but Johnson’s character is more over the top so he gets to set the pace in a lot of scenes. And he does. He is committed to the role of Bob Stone, a kid who was bullied in high school and who turned into, well, the chiseled perfection that is The Rock.
And Hart steps up the physicality of his performance as well. Hart plays the mild mannered Calvin Joyner, a high school stand out turned average guy. He has enough stunts to keep up with his action movie veteran co-star and his turn as a straight man to Johnson’s over the top antics work in an unexpected way.
What could have easily been a throwaway comedy ended up being a heartwarming bromance with enough pop culture references to make me and the nerdy friends I went with feel right at home, enough action, fighting, and fart jokes to satisfy my inner 12 year old, and a coherent – not water tight – plot. I’ll take it.