On the surface, the optics of Central Intelligence have a lot going for it; a comedy with a couple of rising stars in comedy and action, thrown together in a movie where they build chemistry over the course of the film. Lots of people liked it as the $125 million domestic box office is an indication, and it would seem like the seeds for a sequel have been sewn. But, and here's a disappointing thing: hopefully that will have the kibosh put on it.
Written by Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen (The Mindy Project) and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers), we're first in 1996 with our two co-stars. Calvin (Kevin Hart, Ride Along) is the star quarterback and class president, Bob (Kevin Hart, San Andreas) is a large pile of humanity, of the blubbery fat kind, and finds himself humiliated in front of the whole school. Flash forward to 2016, and Bob is, well, The Rock, running from the CIA who considers him rogue for killing his partner. He searches for Calvin's company on the eve of the pair's 20th High School reunion, as Calvin tries to surpass the peak he had when he was in high school.
A problem with Central Intelligence is that it seems to not know what it wants to be when it grows up. It seems to borrow from either Jump Street film when it comes to the young guys growing up and facing some requisite dilemma, there's a portion of it that falls into Spy a little when it comes to a normal person being thrown into high stakes espionage, and there even may be a little bit of Young Adult thrown into it as well, with people looking to reclaim the same sort of normalcy or even anonymity they had in high school. These aren't exact examples mind you, but I think you get the general idea.
The problem with this cinematic schizophrenia is threefold, in no order; first, the film's bouncing between preference on story they wish to tell. The simplest way to cover the movie is that it wants to be the story of a reunion where Bob comes and claims the Reunion King crown in a bemuscled way that only the Rock can. But the action elements in the film cloud this, along with some understated storyline about Calvin trying to find some value in his life since high school. Second is that this bouncing around in storyline and/or intention impacts the pacing of the film, whether it's at 107 minutes or 116. The film has problems with pacing early on that are exacerbated the further the film goes.
Lastly, the casting and underuse of some of the people in Central Intelligence is baffling. The CIA agent looking to try and apprehend Bob is played by Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), Bob's former partner is Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), and the kid who victimized him in high school and has grown up to be a snobby little turd in adulthood is Jason Bateman (Identity Thief). Of the three, only Bateman is the only one that is entertaining, not because of context, though it helps, but because Bateman goes full bore into his role and is the most natural doing so.
It's weird, because the leads are actually fine; not being too versed in the Kevin Hart filmography, he gives Calvin a certain sense of nostalgia at his youth and works well with his wife in the film, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), and manages to turn in laughs that it would seem that Hart can uniquely deliver. Johnson is fine too, with some better than anticipated emotional depth while doing the action stuff that he is known for.
There is a scene early in the final act of Central Intelligence that would seem to sum it up perfectly; one of the character is watching something happen, something apparently straightforward that could send that character and another down a defined road. But before that decision could be made, a bunch of obstacles get in the way (which oddly enough confuse one of the characters) that dilute and distract from what should have been an easy situation. Now expand that to 145 more minutes, and you have Central Intelligence. Sad!The Blu-ray:
Warner gives Central Intelligence an AVC encode to this 2.40:1 widescreen presentation and the high-definition look for the film is solid. Flesh tones are natural without any additional enhancement, colors are natural (nice unicorn shirt Rock!), and while there is a moment or two of haloing and banding, none of it is detrimental to the overall quality of the transfer. It's a nice looking disc, but nothing entirely jaw-dropping.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless for both versions of the film and they bring the noise and the ruckus. Gunfire is loud and rings throughout the soundstage. Bullet hits are replicated effectively in the satellite channels, and explosions let the subwoofer rumble into activity often. Dialogue is well-balanced in the center channel and requires little adjustment, and the overall soundtrack is effective, powerful and makes the painful story a tiny bit easier.The Extras:
As mentioned before, the disc has a the theatrical and an unrated cut, and there are extras for both, though they're basically the same, but with excisions for more sweary stuff. Thurber and Editor Michael Sale team up for a commentary that is active and invoived "…for the eight and a half people listening." They both recount their thoughts on the script initially and thoughts on the stars. Sale talks about his challenges as an editor and how he works with Thurber. Thurber talks about character motivation and how to get the chemistry of the film right, and there is a good amount of production recall throughout. It's an active track and worth listening to for fans of the film.
Next up are a bunch of alternate scenes, most of which are redundant and not entirely illuminating. A line-o-rama (2:31) harkens back to the days of Judd Apatow releases, and a gag reel (6:18) gives the film a run for its money when it comes to general yuks. We see a time lapse of the couch clean-up sequence (:41) and a "Dance Off" (2:26) shows the person that really does the shower dance at the beginning of the film.Final Thoughts:
Central Intelligence is fun and funny on its surface, but the surface does not last long, and as the film goes along, just gets messier and messier. The stars are fine, the supporting cast is surprising and disappointing, and if the story had more focus to it, could have been superb, rather than just existing a part of time and space. Technically, the disc looks and sounds great, and the extras are fine, though not entirely memorable. I was not sure what to expect from the film, but at the end I certainly expected better.