Review – A Big Johnson and a Little Hart (“Central Intelligence”)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a movie about a nutty law officer who recruits a nobody to help him and… oh, you’ve heard it, huh? I suppose it was inevitable that Kevin Hart and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson would show up in a movie together. Yes, it’s another cop-buddy/fish-out-of-water movie that you’ve already seen just like this one.
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We start off with a prologue that shows the lives of some senior high-schoolers: teenage Calvin (“the Golden Jet”) Joyner (Hart) is your A-typical beloved BMOC who’s gonna marry Maggie, (Danielle Nicolet), his stunning teenage sweetheart. At an end-of-year rally, Calvin’s spotlight is upstaged by a cruel prank: obese Robert Weirdicht (Johnson) is thrown naked in front of the crowd. Calvin takes pity on him and boom! 20 years later, “Bob Stone” (Robert’s aka) re-appears as a hulking new Adonis and ingratiates himself into Calvin’s hum-drum boring accountant life. Why? Well, it seems that nerdy Bob needs Calvin’s skills to crack a secret government code encrypted in a dark web file.

Calvin soon learns, much to his shock and surprise, that geeky, odd, and unicorn shirt-wearing Bob is actually a rogue FBI agent who’s being hunted by his boss, Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) and her team. Bob confesses he’s on the lam looking for the infamous “Black Badger”, although Agent Harris tells Calvin that Bob is delusional, dangerous and he’s the bad guy! Calvin’s friendship (not to mention his marriage) becomes strained as crazy situations escalate. Bob, aside from having an amazing ‘particular set of skills’, keeps getting Calvin into the most outrageous and life-threatening scenarios he’s ever been in, but in the long-run, Calvin starts to enjoy it and embrace the danger.

The wild conclusion even gives you a callback from the prologue, when and Bob and Calvin go to their 20-year high school reunion party, capping off the evening with a dish best served cold–revenge! Bob gets over his teen fears, Calvin and his wife reconcile, and there’s even a surprise guest star that pops up in the final five minutes. And look for a short blooper reel before the credits roll that’s pretty funny.

Yeah, sure, it’s a formula screenplay by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen (of The Mindy Project), and Rawson Marshall Thurber, so the story is strictly by-the-numbers, but it does have some funny moments wrapped around some ROCK-sized plot holes (get it?) and your typical deus ex machina ending. At least Hart’s Get Hard and The Wedding Ringer were original in their plot and set-up, but Geez Louise! Another cop-buddy movie? Seriously guys? Hart has already done two Ride Along cop-buddy movies and this is the best you could come up with?

Hart aside, Johnson is alot like Bruce Willis; the man is likable doing either action, drama, or comedy. Their teaming up here is okay (height variations, notwithstanding) and they look like they’re having a good time, but let’s face it, they’re no Hart and Ferrell. Sadly, the main females, Nicolet and Ryan, are merely there for window dressing and should have been used more. I will say this, as implausible and sometimes bumpy the writing is, it still managed to garner some genuine laughs here and there, thanks to Hart’s signature manic humor and Thurber’s smart direction. He also directed the very funny We’re The Millers and wrote/directed the hilarious Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. 

Real Men (1987)

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Back in 1987 someone got the bright idea that if you put those two funny guys, James Belushi and John Ritter together in a movie, it’d not only be comedy gold, but it would kill at the box office. Ah, but those same people forgot about one important thing: that pesky screenplay!

Dennis Feldman (sounds like a Seinfeld character, doesn’t it?), wrote and directed this weak, but occasionally amusing cop-buddy film just when Ritter was testing his feature film wings after leaving his lucrative Three’s Company TV series. The story is a straight forward, by-the-numbers formula story with some awkward and strange twists thrown in to keep you off balance.

Belushi as super-duper FBI agent Nick Pirandello who’s part James Bond, part MacGyver, and all sarcasm. His current job is to seek out a guy that looks like former dead FBI agent Pillbox (Ritter) for a top secret mission involving friendly space aliens. The body double he has to escort to Washington, D.C. is milquetoast family man, Bob Wilson (Ritter again) who is skiddish, spineless, and prone to hysterics. These two unlikely guys pair-up and immediately there’s friction. Could it be because the Russians are after them too? Seems those aliens have either a “Good Package” or a “Big Gun” they’ll only give to Agent Pillbox in exchange for… a glass of water. That’s it. Just a glass of water. These are some really dumb aliens!

Anyway, the Russkies want that ‘Big Gun’ (which can destroy a planet), not the “Good Package’ (which can save humanity) and try to kill the guys at every opportunity. As much as he can, Nick tries to toughen up the wimpy Bob with mind games, which comes in handy when they face off against a bunch of corrupt FBI agents dressed as clowns in an alley. This is probably the film’s only really funny moment. Through weird entanglements like this, and Nick meeting a dominatrix that rocks his world, a strange thing happens: Bob grows a spine and becomes fearless, tough, and strong, while Nick becomes sensitive and respectful of others.

The ending is just plain bad (as you might expect) with a lazy shoot-out and an alien exchange, not to mention Bob coming home to ‘put things right’ in a callback scene to the beginning of the movie when he was shown as a colossal wimp. Needless to say, this movie tanked at the box office big time and didn’t help Ritter with his film career. He would have to wait until he made some much better movies like Skin Deep, Noises Off, and Sling Blade before he got the acting praise he deserved.

Director/writer Feldman has some moments here, but his insane writing is all over the map with strange vignettes and scenes strung together to form a semi-coherent story arc. This is his only directed movie as his forte was writing forgettable movies like Species, Virus, and Eddie Murphy’s weird The Golden Child. 

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