Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber – Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy
I’m pretty sure that someone came up with the tagline for this movie before there was even a plot. In case you haven’t seen the posters, it reads: “Saving the World Takes a Little Hart and a Big Johnson” – a reference to the names of the leading men. I can absolutely see some executive at a Hollywood party talking to the pair of them and coming up with that, while thinking it was the funniest thing ever.
Of course the idea of pairing the towering powerhouse, also known as The Rock, with the considerably less robust Hart, also sounds like comedy gold. Mismatched partnerships have been the central theme of many a hit comedy movie over the years, so there is a method to the madness. And indeed their pairing does work – they have an amazing rapport, and Johnson shows a willingness to completely rip himself to shreds, which is commendable for a star of his stature.
The pair play former schoolmates, Calvin Joyner (Hart) and Bob Stone (Johnson). While Joyner was a popular successful jock in high school, Bob (or Robbie Weirdicht as he was known then) was a sensitive, overweight, loner.
When a cruel prank was played on Bob, Calvin was the only one to step up and help him. Years later when Calvin, now working as an accountant, gets a Facebook friend request from the now buff Bob, they meet for drinks. Little does he know that when Bob casually asks him to have a look at some of his accounts because of ‘payroll issues’, his world will implode.
It turns out Bob is now in the CIA, and is suspected of not only killing his partner, but of being in possession of some valuable satellite codes, which he is trying to sell. Recruiting Calvin to help him, the pair must try and find out who is behind the plot and clear Bob’s name, before the codes fall into the wrong hands.
True, it’s not the most inspired of plots. The ‘selling codes to the bad guy’ thing has been done to death. And it has a gazillion holes in it – honestly, I counted! What pulls this together is the fact that Johnson and Hart are allowed to riff off each other and play to each others strengths. They prove a formidable double-act, and there are some moments of sheer hilarity.
Unfortunately there are also some rather turgid moments, and on the one or two occasions where the tone should be more sombre – such as when Bob has flashbacks to being bullied – Johnson’s acting chops simply aren’t up to extracting empathy from the audience. But no matter, as the light-hearted moments more than make up for the slower bits.
This is a nice cheery summer flick. It won’t set the world on fire but it will leave you smiling. No doubt Johnson and Hart will be paired up again – indeed the ending almost makes that seem like a certainty, and in the moments where they are allowed free reign, this will have you chuckling into your popcorn with laughter.
On a negative note, they could have tried to utilise an anti-bullying message a bit more, and given what a hero Johnson is to millions of kids, this feels like a missed opportunity. However, don’t hold that against it if you are just looking for an uncomplicated fun flick that delivers enough laughs to make it viable.
In Cinemas Now!