Once again demonstrating his many skills, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson convinces me of something I’d never think of him. I completely believe that The Rock, the People’s Champ, dropper of the People’s Elbow, charismatic eyebrow raiser extraordinaire, is a complete dork who is socially awkward, has no friends, and has body image issues.
Basically he’s me, only less handsome.
(Minor spoilers below for Central Intelligence.)
In the poorly titled Central Intelligence, The Rock begins as an overweight high school kid prone to singing in the shower who suffers some horrendous bullying and embarrassment. Cut to the present and he reunites with the only classmate who ever showed him an ounce of kindness, former king of the school Kevin Hart. Only now The Rock is, well, The Rock, and a badass CIA agent on top of it. The unlikely duo embark on a mock spy adventure full of betrayal and hijinks.
What make us want to go along on this ride are our leads. Both Johnson and Hart are charismatic and funny. Hart excels as the straight man trying to deal with the craziness of the situations he finds himself in. He also still has plenty of opportunity to wig out in fear and frustration. These are the types of roles I think Kevin Hart works best in. The Rock is sufficiently crazy and wacky in wonderful ways. In one scene that had me on the floor, he poses as a psychiatrist and demonstrates some great comedic timing. Toss in some excellent cameos and you have a lot of laughs.
I was most impressed by how The Rock so effectively portrayed a socially awkward lonely geek who is desperate for friendship. Much of the movie’s comedy comes from juxtaposing his elite CIA skills with his being just a little too eager to be your friend, inability to know when he’s not wanted, and unyielding love of Sixteen Candles. I totally believe that he is a person who is desperate for friends and validation. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, The Rock is frozen in his tracks and bullied into submission by another former classmate who dredges up all the old wounds and anxieties. This is The Rock! A god among men, an eminently charming Adonis! In that moment I saw myself in him and I felt for him.
Central Intelligence is a standout flick. Plenty of laughs come from sometimes unexpected places. Kevin Hart and The Rock work together seamlessly to make a quality comedy that has a touch of honest emotion.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
The Bourne Identity – Matt Damon wakes up with two bullets in him, no memory, and the CIA after him. Must be Tuesday. The action lacks the flash and bombast of, say, a James Bond movie. That’s not to say it’s bad. Its sparse and in-close nature lend it a certain brutal efficiency that has its own appeal and I bet felt especially fresh and unique in 2002. That’s probably what got it enough attention for a sequel, because the average spy thriller and perfunctory romance which wrap around the action scenes are fine, but nothing special.
Synchronicity – A small team invents time travel, but the lead fears his work is being taken over by a suit (played by Michael Ironside!) and goes back in time to try and prevent it. But then he falls in love with a girl and keeps going back in time to try and…make things right with her? I think? This sci-fi yarn may have wanted to say something about inevitability and sacrifice but the script, acting, and editing are all so bad that I found myself having trouble understanding why things were happening. I also fell asleep. Twice. So, definitely recommending as a sleep aid.
Listening – A small team invents telepathy, but the lead fears that his work is being used by the government for nefarious means. This flick full of no one anyone has ever heard of does well playing with the idea of hearing the unfiltered thoughts of another, how that affects one’s perception of the truth, and how to go about trying to mask your thoughts. The two creators of the tech drifting apart as one works with the government and the other resists provides a fine conflict, and the whole thing escalates to a fun showdown. Nice touch using Zen Buddhism to clear one’s mind. This movie ultimately is pretty bland, but at least it’s competently made, which is more than I can say for Synchronicity.
Paradox – A small team invents time travel, but traveling one hour into the future and back reveals that everyone is killed by a masked man (or woman), and everyone is locked in a fight for survival against the inevitability of what may be destined to happen. If you add macaroni you’d have a tasty meal, this movie is so cheesy. (It’s almost as cheesy as that joke.) Acting is hamfisted and the script includes such gems as “Hello sir, we’re jacked into the grid” and “You saw that I was dead? Wow, worst spoiler alert ever.” But being laughably bad means at least I’m laughing. This movie is fun in the way the worst/best of straight to SyFy movies are fun. Turn it on while you’re doing something else and enjoy some silly acting and time travel tomfoolery. Shout out to Kiwi actress/stuntwoman Zoë Bell who gets to spend the last twenty minutes of this movie doing what she does best: kicking ass.