Central Intelligence

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber (2016)

In every sense the world’s biggest movie star, Dwayne Johnson’s huge charisma, charm and frame dominates this entertaining action comedy.

As a rogue CIA agent Robbie Weirdich, Johnson is like Jason Bourne on comedy steroids, combining a tremendous sense of goofy fun with the ability to fight his way out of a kitchen using only a banana.

The name of the character name is a pointer to the sophistication of the film’s humour.

Robbie is framed for the death of his partner and so lands unexpectedly on the doorstep of Calvin, his erstwhile best friend from high school.

Squeaky voiced comic Kevin Hart is refreshingly restrained and occasionally even funny as Calvin.

In order to accommodate the pneumatic presence of Johnson, Hart is squeezed into a rare straight man role. Although rarely allowed to ad lib in his usual shouty style, whenever Hart wriggles free the film stalls.

Once the king of the high school prom and predicted for greatness, Calvin is now a dull accountant and is having difficulties at home. Danielle Nicolet is sweetly concerned as his beautiful wife, Maggie.

Calvin reluctantly teams up with his erstwhile buddy to attempt to recover some military files while being pursued by the CIA.

Through all the chases, fights, escapes, interrogation, torture and some terrifying relationship therapy, it’s the strong comic rapport between the leads which keeps us engaged.

Amy Ryan is keeps a straight face as an icy CIA chief, Aaron Paul makes an impression in a small role and Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy cameo.

The story is predictable but Central Intelligence blasts along with a fun energy, decent stunts and some surprisingly violent action. Though not an over abundance of intelligence.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Life of Pets

Director: Chris Renaud, Yarrow Cheney (2016)

Furry foes compete to be top dog in this irresistible animated adventure guaranteed to get your tail wagging.

It’s powered with a manic zeal to please its audience and full of infectious sunny mirth and giggly silliness.

Created by the demented makers of the Despicable Me movies, it shamelessly milks brand loyalty to encourage you into the cinema.

This means we’re treated to a marvellous mini minion adventure prior to the film and lots of references throughout.

Max is a Jack Russell Terrier who lives in domestic bliss with his owner Katie and considers himself the luckiest dog in New York and.

His happiness is disturbed when Katie brings home another rescue pet and Max is forced to share his turf with the much larger dog called Duke.

They must bury their bone of contention when they become lost in the big city, are chased by animal catchers and hunted by a revolutionary rabbit and his gang of rampaging recruits. Huge snakes, hungry crocodiles and feral cats add to the madcap chaos.

Meanwhile the posse of friends who set out on the rescue include a hawk, a tabby, a budgie and an elderly basset hound on wheels.

As Max and Duke bark, bicker and bond in adversity as their situation begins to bite, the action rockets through the city, veering from vertiginous skyscrapers to the depths of the sewers.

There’s violent slapstick, bright colours, wall flattening pace and a fabulously funny fantasy in a hot dog factory.

The voice talents of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Steve Coogan and Lake Bell are great fun but my pet hate Kevin Hart never stops shouting his suspiciously ad libbed sounding lines.

Be warned; if you kids don’t have a pet now, they’ll want one after watching this.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

The Wedding Ringer

Director: Jeremy Garelick (2015)

Failing to sound even the lightest peal of laughter, this sentimental gross-out bromance is a comedy title in need of a movie.

Comic turned actor Kevin Hart is a massive star in the US and the script encourages him to ad lib incessantly – but his sense of humour is lost in translation somewhere over the Atlantic.

Wealthy, fat and friendless, Doug (Josh Gad) can’t bring himself to admit to his bridezilla fiancee Gretchen he has no best man or groomsmen to attend their wedding.

Gretchen is played by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting and as Penny in TV’s The Big Bang Theory she is charming and funny. But not here.

In desperation Doug turns to the wedding ringer Jimmy Callahan (Hart). He’s a professional best man for hire who operates out of an amusement park basement.

Question of the validity or morality of a service guaranteeing a marriage will begin with an expensive lie are sacrificed on the altar of the bride’s happiness and the success of the big day.

For a the $50,000 fee Jimmy hires a deranged bunch on unemployables to be Doug’s seven groomsmen. In only two weeks he has to train them up to be respectable citizens, each with an extensive invented personal background.

Jimmy himself pretends to be Bic Mitchum, an old university buddy who has joined both the military and the priesthood.

Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Jimmy insists on no emotional attachment with his clients – but slowly he and Doug start to bond.

There’s drugs, sex workers, a bachelor party, a dog with lockjaw, a bloke with three testicles, a violent game of American football and a granny is set on fire. Doug falls through his glass-topped table for no reason.

Olivia Thirlby appears as Gretchen’s cynical sister Allison. She’s there to confirm Jimmy’s heterosexual status but her talent deserves far better than this and so do we. However Doug, Gretchen and Jimmy all deserve each other.

☆☆☆☆