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Movie Review

Central Intelligence

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Joseph Gabriel
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Spy Action Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
June 17, 2016 (wide—3,508 theaters)
DVD: September 27, 2016
Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures

spies in the Bible

bullies / bullying

Featuring: Dwayne “The Rock” JohnsonBob Stone
Aaron Paul
Kevin Hart … Calvin
Amy Ryan …
Megan Park … Lexi
Ryan Hansen … Steve
Brett Azar … Agent Wally
Danielle Nicolet … Maggie
Kimberly Howe … Waitress
Tim Griffin … Agent Stan
more »
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber—“We’re the Millers” (2013), “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004)
Producer: New Line Cinema
Bluegrass Films
more »
Distributor: New Line Cinema, division of Warner Bros. Pictures

“Central Intelligence” kicks off with a flashback to 1996. We meet our two main characters, polar opposites living on the opposing ends of the high school food chain. Calvin Joyner (Kevin hart) is the main man so to speak—the most popular kid in school whom everyone adores and is voted “Most Likely To Succeed” his senior year. His opposite is Robbie (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), an obese kid whom everyone seems to enjoy bullying. One day, during the final high school assembly of the year, Robbie is humiliated by a group of bullies who yank him from the shower room and toss him out naked onto the gym floor. The crowds of spectators laugh and jeer at him relentlessly, all except for Calvin, who shows some kindness by covering Robbie up with his jacket.

Fast forward twenty years and things are looking mighty different for Calvin. The once revered man is now a lowly accountant with a few growing marital issues and dreams of making it big. A random friend request on Facebook leads to an encounter with present-day Robbie, who, as it turns out, has changed for the best. Packing more muscles than a male model, a bubbly personality, and some terrific physical combat skills, Robbie is suddenly an apparent champion of life. Also, he just happens to be a CIA agent caught up in a complex plot to take down a terrorist known as “The Black Badger.” To make matters worse, an old CIA boss, for reasons unknown, is bent on framing Robbie for a murder he didn’t commit. What follows is a long and intense adventure for the two high school associates as they try to take down the bad guys and evade the crooked CIA agents dogging them every step of the way.

“Central Intelligence” is hilarious. And I mean uproariously hilarious. The film’s two stars have terrific chemistry and both of them flex their comedic muscles to the point of soreness throughout the entire run-time. The humor is a terrific combination of the physical and the spoken, with humorous action scenes and dialog-heavy comedic set pieces coming at you nonstop. Every single scene in this movie throws tons of jokes at you and most of them hit the mark perfectly. The performances are great, the comedic timing is exquisite, the pacing is lightning-fast, and the action scenes surprisingly thrilling to watch.

Unfortunately, there are some areas of concern here.

Violence: While most of it is played for laughs, the violence here is frequent and fairly intense for a PG-13 rating. There are a ton of shootouts, fistfights, and chases featured throughout. Both the good guys and bad guys are pummeled with batons, beaten into submission, have bones broken, are gunned down, etc. Blood spurts from gunshot wounds briefly on a few occasions. A man has his fingers broken off-screen by a government agent in a somewhat dark interrogation scene. A baddie gets his throat ripped out by one of the good guys (very little blood or realistic motion). A man is blown up inside an elevator (we see a blurred out image of blood splattering on and completely covering the glass doors). Most of this occurs during the films mostly comedic, but at times kind of dark (during the more tense moments of the plot) action scenes.

Sexual Content: There is some sexual humor, though not nearly as much as I anticipated. A YouTube video shows a man with a long pole attached to his (clothed) crotch in a suggestive dance with obvious implications. It only lasts for a couple of seconds, but it’s there and leaves a bit of an impact. A waitress at a bar makes come-ons to the muscle-bound Robbie. Robbie himself jokingly places a rope between his legs and starts waving it around as if it were his own member at one point. We also see his bare buttocks thrice during the film’s opening scene, where his fat teenage self dances joyfully to a song in the school showers. To make a point, a marriage therapist pecks his male client in front of his wife during a session. One of Calvin’s co-workers makes crude sexual references and talks about an app he’s developing that’s meant to make men’s members look larger in photos. A passing comment about genital sizes is made. Robbie strips naked at one point, as a statement about his physical appearance and how proud he is of it (only seen from the chest up).

Language: Unfortunately constant. This is a film starring Kevin Hart, after all. We hear constant misuses of both God’s and Jesus’ names throughout the entire movie, so much in fact that I literally lost count halfway through (easily more than 30 uses in total between the two). An f-bomb explodes on contact. Milder crudities pepper the rest of the dialog (about 30 uses of “s**t”, a dozen of “as*” and “h*ll”). Terms for genitalia such as “p**sy”, “p*cker”, “b*lls” are also used liberally. “As*ho*e”, “b**tard”, and “d*mn” join the party of auditory unpleasantness. We see one use of the middle finger gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Use: Social consumption of alcoholic beverages. Some talk of getting drunk on shots.

Other Negative Elements: Some rude behavior, such as rubbing a behind on a glass door as an insult. A Scientologist character, who is portrayed as a vile, detestable jerk makes a sarcastic jab at a central Christian value (the power of Christ to change our hearts). He gets his comeuppance later on.

Positive Elements: “Central Intelligence” actually has quite a lot to say about the effects of bullying on an innocent mind. Throughout the movie, we see Robbie struggle with the dark memories of his tormented past and the effects said memories have on his behavior. Calvin is a loyal friend to him, displaying both a lot of empathy and emotional support. Seeing Robbie overcoming his wounds and coming out strong in the end is both empowering and uplifting. Other possible lessons to take from this film include the importance of determination to accomplish life goals, the dangers of settling for mediocrity when you are capable of achieving greatness with a little effort, appreciating the blessings you have in the moment, and others. Truth be told, despite the content issues mentioned, the movie carries a mostly positive tone to it, with no real sense of malice. You can tell there are good intentions behind it all.

Conclusion: In the end, “Central Intelligence” is a bit of a mixed bag. As a comedy, and as a feel-good movie in general, it succeeds with flying colors. The characters are easy to love, the intentions seem pure, the comedy is uproarious, the action is well-done, the performances are solid, and the level of sexual content is far below something the likes of “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” a comedy I really enjoyed, but could never recommend in good conscience, due to its very high level of offensive content. Add to that a hefty amount of positive life lessons for any age group, and you have a very enjoyable experience… one that is unfortunately derailed by a sizable amount of violence and language with a moderate serving of sexual humor on the side. This film is only for mature teens and adults who can stomach and maturely handle the content issues. Kids shouldn’t be admitted, as the issues mentioned make the film inappropriate for immature (and spiritually unsound) minds.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—My husband and I were ready for a good laugh when we went to see this comedy starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. There were quite a few laughs to be had, even if sometimes the laughter was just from the ridiculousness of the plot. There were only a couple of objectionable parts, such as in the beginning where a nude, younger and more overweight version of Dwayne Johnson is thrown onto the floor of the high school gym as a prank. Not much is shown, but one gets the idea that he’s nude (and I think the whole thing was made using CGI to make him look more overweight). Then, in another scene at the end of the film, he is shown nude again, but the viewer only sees him from the chest up. Still, the fact that he is nude is implied, and it is not necessary and inappropriate.

Other than that, and some language, this film was pretty clean. There were lots of twists and turns, surprises, and suspenseful moments interspersed within this comedy. What I liked most about the film was that it kept you guessing about who was the “good guy” vs. The “bad guy,” and you’re not really sure until the end. Pretty good film, although it’s not one I would purchase. It was fun for a date night with the hubby, though.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Nicole, age 31 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—We really like “The Rock” and so wanted to see the movie. Overall it was good and was humorous, but there was a lot of profanity and sexual moves with objects etc. As a Christian it bothered me. I felt the scene with a character professing to be a Christian a direct insult. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for these reasons. PG-13 is what used to be rated R in my opinion. I would have rated this an R personally.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kristy, age 40 (USA)
Neutral—As a reviewer, I rarely go to see films purely for recreation. But after the review for this film turned out to be way more positive than I expected in terms of both morality and quality, I said “hey, why not?” and saw it. The main scenes with sexually provocative content were at the very beginning and very end. The one at the beginning is somewhat excusable, because it is not particularly sexual in nature and is actually used to create the touching scene of Calvin helping Robby get away from the bullies. The one at the end, however, despite having no sexual motives behind it, was unnecessary and bothersome. But the thing that bothered me most about the film was the frequent misuse of God’s name. That was hard to hear.

Aside from those things, this is a very enjoyable film. The humor is not disappointing, nor is the action. The story was able to address both the crime and the personal family relationships of the characters without being cheesy. There are also some edge-of-your-seat plot twists that you don’t usually expect from a comedy, as well as positive messages about redeeming your past mistakes and doing right no matter the cost. Overall, I agree with the reviewer. I couldn’t let this film by with a moral rating of Average, but it still has refreshing brains and heart.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Gabriel Mohler, age 26 (USA)
Negative
Negative—This has got to be one of the dumbest movies I have seen. I like the main actor, usually, and think he can be funny, but this was just stupid, even though I do like stupid humor movies. I think trying to watch him act like a teenager in a huge man’s body was just weird. The acting was bad from him and the other main actor. It could have been so much better. The storyline is interesting how he turned his life around but I just couldn’t get into seeing him act like a teenager the whole time.

Also, there were way too many sexual jokes in there, even though there wasn’t as much cussing as I thought there would be. Don’t waste your time. Oh then when the biggest bully bullied him again and acted like he was a Christian, and he was sorry, and he asked for forgiveness, then said he was kidding and totally bullied him more, that was just totally evil. You thought for a minute that he had a conversion and they were actually showing that on a movie, but nope it was a joke. That was just downright rude especially when bullying is such a huge issue in this country.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Stephanie, age 41 (USA)
Movie Critics

…It’s refreshing to see the always funny Hart play the straight man for a change. …“Central Intelligence” is really a showcase for the Rock to flex his comedic muscles. Hart’s job is to react. …The two actors have great chemistry…
—The Washington Post

…boils down to base-level hijinks with a stock anti-bullying message (and a handful of decent cameos). But Johnson brings the funny. Underneath all that muscle, a comedy star is wrestling to get out, and he’s finally emerged. …
—Adam Graham, The Detroit News

…Mindless summer fun… Fast …moderately entertaining, the film also is notable for what it spares us: There are no penis jokes; no gags involving farts, diarrhea or projectile vomit…
—Jon Frosch, The Hollywood Reporter

…plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. …a by-the-numbers action comedy. …plenty of twist and turns to keep audiences guessing. …The film works because of its two stars…
—Tim Hall, SeattlePI (Hearst Seattle Media)

…plenty-likeable action comedy…
—Chris Klimek, NPR (National PublicRadio)

…could have used less fake intrigue and more laughs…
—Owen Gleiberman, Variety

…An odd-couple caper of staggering dopeyness that makes you long for the snap and sizzle of the buddy movies of the 1980s…
—Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

…The plot is moronic and the final act drags, but this buddy romp is elevated by the glorious inanity of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s central double act… [3/5]
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)

…If only intelligence were more central to “Central Intelligence.” But the script for this buddy comedy reads like the first draft of a project no one was interested in improving during production. …
—Bill Wine, KYW Newsradio 1060

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