Saturday, July 30, 2016

Central Intelligence review

I was looking forwards to this ever since seeing the trailer. While that kind of anticipation can lead to disappointment, Central Intelligence actually surpassed my expectations.

Kevin Hart can be annoying to me sometimes, and Dwayne Johnson was playing a character type that I usually don't enjoy watching, but somehow in this movie they both had me literally laughing out loud for most of the film's run-time. In fact I would even go so far as to say that I found it to be one of the funniest movies I've seen in years.

I think a big reason why the humour worked for me is that the writers did not sacrifice the characters' humanity and relate-ability in exchange for a few quick gags. The protagonists both had issues that I felt I could sympathise with, yet they didn't simply wallow in their problems, and while both displayed exaggerated acts of stupidity for the purposes of humour, they didn't go so far as to become simple one-dimensional caricatures. This made me care about them more, and as a result I enjoyed everything, including the humour, more than I otherwise might have.

Having said that, I did feel that the way the movie tied up their personal dramatic arcs at the end was a bit weaker than I would have liked; though overall the story was enjoyable. The action was decent but not amazing, and while I appreciated the plot overall I felt it dragged a little around the middle. Also, being something of a spy movie Central Intelligence featured some obligatory plot twists and double-crosses, and while they served their purpose thematically, I thought they were mostly quite predictable. Not that it matters really; this is a comedy not a thriller after all.

I must mention of course that from the moment I first saw the trailer, this film reminded me strongly of Knight and Day. I didn't think that was a bad thing as I enjoyed that movie a great deal, and after finally watching Central Intelligence I would say that it's not really too similar overall. It does hit a lot of the same story notes, but I believe it has a broader appeal thanks to a more varied sense of humour and characters that are deeper and more believable. Having said that, I seem to remember Knight and Day having better action and a slightly more streamlined plot, so I at least am not going to say that either one is straight-up better than the other.

Central Intelligence was probably one of my favourite comedies of the last few years. I'm giving it 8/10: a solidly entertaining movie.


As far as I could tell, Calvin's issue was that he was dissatisfied with himself: he had shown tremendous promise when young, yet he had simply settled into a safe, boring, unadventurous accounting job. He had been expecting better from himself. So when he declared at the end that he was happy with his life because he loved his wife, well, to me that doesn't really feel like he's actually worked through his issues and solved his problems, rather it felt like the movie was ending and needed to wrap everything up. Yes, he is later shown joining the CIA, which is a much stronger ending for him as his life will be more challenging and meaningful, but only happened later, after he was shown as having found his "resolution".

Furthermore, I didn't really understand how Bob overcame his hang-ups in the end. One minute he was clearly still suffering from the painful memories of the humiliation he had suffered, and the next he was fine. Was it meant to be something to do with Calvin's faith in him restoring his confidence or something? I don't know, maybe I just missed something, but again it felt to me as if it was simply wrapped up at the end for expediency's sake.

It might be a small thing, but personally I didn't like how many times Calvin flip-flopped between trying to help Bob and turning against him. I get that he was unsure at first, he had every reason to be, and I get that he had reason to change his mind or doubt things at various times, but overall I just found it annoying and I felt the movie kind of dragged a bit when it kept happening; I would have preferred it if that part had been streamlined a bit.

One thing I liked about this movie was that Calvin's skills were actually shown as being genuinely essential. Yes, he spent a lot of time having to be saved, and yes, a lot of what he contributed was physical, lucky, or required very little skill, but at the end of the day it was his accounting skills that made him indispensable, and the movie did not gloss over this. Even now too many movies and T.V. shows feature insanely talented super-intelligent geniuses solving what are actually tremendous difficult problems in mere seconds, providing solutions that the jocks would be nowhere without, and yet they are still often treated as second-class support characters while the jocks get all the glory. I appreciated the fact that Central Intelligence was more even-handed.

By the way, why did Calvin shoot Bob? At first I thought he had secretly dialled agent Harris (or just, I dunno, 911 or something) on the phone we saw him use earlier and was deliberately baiting Phil into a confession, but then when Bob congratulates him for getting that confession we are led to believe from Calvin's actions that he hadn't actually planned it. Also we never see a phone or any kind of recording device, so what good did the confession do? Especially since Bob then threw his body into the river, so there isn't really any evidence that he didn't die and was actually the Black Badger. To me, this felt like one of the times when going for a gag actually hurt the movie overall.

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