You’ll be glad to know it’s a mile away from Kevin Hart’s Ride Along, and may be one of the strangest buddy comedies we’ve seen in a while.
Dwayne ‘The towering hunk of muscle known as The Rock’ Johnson joins Kevin Hart to create a mismatched pair caught up in some mysterious CIA double-crossing.
Former high school peers, Hart’s Calvin Joyner was a sports & academic superstar, while Johnson’s Robby Weirdicht was the social polar opposite; an overweight quirky kid, more Motown than macho.
Fast forward 20 years or so and Calvin’s fast-paced life has slowed right down, with work as an accountant and a childless, flagging marriage. He unexpectedly hears from Robby via Facebook & they meet up, where he is revealed to have transformed into ‘Bob Stone’, a super-fit giant still retaining his quirky core, evidenced by a love of unicorn T-shirts.
Calvin is mystified by the new Bob and helps him out with a quick bit of accountancy, only to have the CIA knock down his door and inform him Bob is an ex-agent who may well be extremely dangerous. But who can you trust?
We had fun, as did those with us in the cinema on two separate showings – but it was definitely an odd experience.
Writers Ike Barinholtz & David Stassen have played Dr. Frankenstein with the buddy comedy format and swapped characteristics around to leave us with two unfamiliar types. Hart is definitely not the loud-mouthed comic relief – but he isn’t entirely the straight man; likewise Johnson isn’t the direct source of comedy, but doesn’t play it all that straight either.
This leaves you with moments where you’re surprised to see the normally fast-talking, oft-shouting Hart play a miserable pessimist, and where you can’t quite figure out whether Johnson’s love of ‘fanny packs’ requires a laugh or puzzled eyebrow.
Nevertheless, it’s a mix that mainly works, with an undercurrent of acceptance and joy in knowing & being who you are that manages to be largely successful (barring an unnecessary cameo towards the end).
Less-than-dynamic editing & framing in action sequences were a disappointment, making The Rock look like a lumbering shadow of his former pro-wrestling self despite decent fight choreography & storyboarding, while the plot itself was highly derivative, relying on cardboard cut-out family dilemmas & a crime with little-to-no actual intrigue. That said, Johnson’s performance gave us plenty of mystery, genuinely causing us to wonder which side of the fence he’d end up on.
It’s one to enjoy for its light-hearted goals and surprising comedic turns, but perhaps not to expect too much of. You probably won’t react to The Rock’s unsettlingly broad smile in quite the same way again.