I don’t want to go to my 20th high school reunion, I couldn’t have imagined feeling that way when I graduated in 1998. I wasn’t a popular kid at school but I’d finally found my niche and had a gang of friends, wouldn’t we be curious how everybody had turned out and 2018 seemed so far away. I figured I’d be a history teacher and failed actor, married with some kids and just trucking along like anybody else. Then life happened and as those 20 years draw closer to an end I find I’m not where I want to be and I’m not who I hoped I would be. This is not unusual and the advent of social media has chipped away the question of how people are going since for the most part that can be answered in few mouse clicks. I can’t imagine what it is like for someone who was popular in high school and shares similar sentiments to me. I’m told there’s always dark horses who make an impression at reunions since once they were free of school life they went on to accomplish great things.
I think of one man in my old drama class who did an assignment when we were studying Brecht. He stood in the middle of the room pretending he was on a ledge planning to commit suicide while a video played of him as someone else(maybe his consciousness) telling him not to jump. There were other props too. I wasn’t a good friend of the man, a nice enough guy, we ran in similar circles but I think we might have even quarrelled once. He was a big tall overweight kid with a soft voice, I guess some people figured he was gay but at our school back in the mid 90s, long before Glee, kids didn’t come out at school. By the time we went to pick up our last report cards a month after graduation rumours were ablaze with kids long assumed to be gay now openly out. Kids can be very incredibly cruel, if I’d been gay I doubt I would’ve come out during those years. I suspect that’s how it was for those kids. Sometimes a party might have happened and somebody would say somebody said something to them but half of that could’ve been just the usual rumour mill. Yet nobody came out until after graduation and then several did immediately. Some it took a bit longer.
Sometimes I think about that big kid and his assignment. How close to the truth was that assignment for him, rarely can you do something so honest and compelling if there was not some truth within yourself being expressed. I wish I’d told him how brave and good his performance was, that he was right – life was always worth living.
I saw on a website about ten years ago geared towards looking up old colleagues that he was doing well. After graduation he hit the gym and came out. Within a year all that fat had turned to muscle and he was signed with a casting agency and getting work as a model and an extra. He got bored with that and could see the instability of such a career so he went at Jeans West at 19. Lots of people do that but he went and did business courses part time and ended up being the store manager. By his mid 20s he was running his own business and had also opened up his own art gallery full of work he’d produced. Simply put to the rest of his graduating class and anybody who had unfairly treated him – he’d fucking showed us and good on him.
Dwayne Johnson plays such a man Robbie Wierdicht in Central Intelligence where he is bullied in high school relentlessly except for the kindness of Kevin Hart’s star student Calvin Joyner. Flash forward 20 years and Calvin Joyner is a middle level office drone who never delivered on the promise of his youth. Calvin’s mood is despondent and it’s starting to affect his marriage to his high school sweetheart Maggie Johnson (Danielle Nicolet). Man that’s a thankless role for an actress, even if Maggie is being reasonable she is always without the knowledge of the audience and lead characters and spends most of her time being negative instead of supportive towards Calvin. Nobody should spend their lives with someone who is endlessly miserable but most people stand by their partners through bad times and depression. We get the sense Maggie has been doing that for a while but we don’t see it, plus she never gets to join in on the fun with Calvin and Robbie. Danielle Nicolet does her best but you can see why Rose Bryne has previously commented that guys seem to have the fun roles a lot. One actress who does get to do cool stuff in the film is Amy Ryan but more on her later.
Excitable loud mouth comedian Kevin Hart dials it back a bit here to play regular joe Calvin and The Rock unleashes some of his softer side flipping the script. Hart’s ability to dial up though is well used for his character’s exasperation at his predicament. Robbie Wierdicht comes back into his life randomly one day and suckers him into catching up over some drinks and reveals he is now a buff CIA agent. Dwayne Johnson has always displayed a sense of humour and sweet disposition within his imposing frame. He plays well Robbie remaining in awe of Calvin despite his own new killer skills he expresses himself like a high school senior excited to be hanging with a bro. This is a guy who finally has a friend to hang with. There’s also hints that this maybe partly an act for his character.
Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) shows up to inform Mr Joyner that Robbie Weirdicht is a liar, a rogue agent who killed his partner and is now an enemy of the state. Robbie declares he’s been framed and needs Calvin’s accounting skills to clear his name and catch the real bad guys.
I’ll be honest, I thought the film was rather average (obvious telegraphed poles rarely amuse me) but I’m thinking back to some bits and smiling. On a $50million budget, director Rawson Marshall Thurber has made some good action sequences even if some of the stunts are CGI augmented and unrealistic. The two leads have good chemistry and seem to enjoy adding new shades to their established personas. At the time I rolled my eyes at too many contrivances and predictability but there are laughs to be had here and one very satisfying cameo at the end. Maybe I’m getting too old for broad comedies but does that mean this film is supposed to appeal to teenagers or to me? Because I’m closer to the age of the central characters.
Central Intelligence is enjoyable enough, my favourite scene is when Hart is asked if you’re in or out? Yet if given the choice between watching it again or going to my own high school reunion, well then not everybody is on Facebook and there’s still some things I’m curious to find out. Maybe I can finally tell that guy, “Hey that Brechtian performance was great and I’m happy you’ve made a good life for yourself.”