The major premise of the “buddy” movie is that the characters are different. Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, Armed and Dangerous…Look at any movie about two characters teaming up and you’ll see two disparate personalities or character types. That’s where the conflict and the interest comes from in many cases. If you put two characters who are basically the same together in some sort of situation then they are likely to react in much the same way and there’s nothing funny or interesting about that. Having that kind of oil and water relationship between two characters who are each coming at a scenario from a different situation and with different previous experiences to draw from gives the writers more fodder with which to gain the audience’s interest.
It’s hard to think of two people who are more unlike each other than Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the two stars of Central Intelligence. Hart plays Calvin Joyner, a nobody accountant who has a reasonably normal and unexciting life. One day he reconnects with Bob Stone (Johnson), an old high school friend who, it turns out, is now a covert CIA operative. Seems Stone needs Joyner’s help on a big investigation, but the former isn’t exactly ready for the high-octane life of international espionage and it appears much of the movie’s comedy is coming from the juxtaposition not only from their character’s experiences but also, obviously, their physical stature.
The first poster is pun-tastic. It shows Hart and Johnson, the latter in back of the former so as to make a visual joke about the size disparity between the two of them, a running theme in most of Hart’s movies. At the top we’re told “Saving the world take a little Hart and a big Johnson.” Get it? It’s both a play on the actors’ names AND a dick joke. Well done, team. Well done.
Another poster released around the same time shows the two of them still together, but this time Hart is huddled for safety behind Johnson. The innuendos continue here as we’re told “Save the world takes a big Johnson.” Subtle, guys.
The teaser trailer tells us that heroes come in two sizes, another gag at the size difference between the two. Apropos of nothing, Johnson tells Hart that he’s in the CIA and needs his help, something Hart says no to, which kind of surprises Johnson. Hart’s reluctance to go along on the mission is a running gag throughout the trailer as he doesn’t want to be involved in any of the escapades Johnson’s character gets him into. At the end we see the two have known each other since high school, when Hart was a popular jock and Johnson was a fat kid singing in the shower.
I’m on board for the premise of the movie, but the broad way the story is laid out here and the fact that we never really get any background on the characters just doesn’t work for me. It will likely resonate with fans of Hart and Johnson but for comedy fans in general there’s not much here to feel optimistic about.
The second trailer hits a lot of the same beats even if the specific jokes are slightly different. We get more of the background of how these two came to be friends back in high school and what drives Bob to seek out his old friend Calvin and bring him into his world of international espionage and intrigue.
If you liked the first trailer you’ll like the second. It’s as simple as that.
Online and Social
You get the key art when you load up the official website. It’s a Tumblr site so there’s a built-in prompt to follow it along with a few key recent Tweets from both Johnson and Hart. There are a couple activities rotating on the left-hand side but they’re also in the main content menu so they’ll have to wait.
The first section in that content menu is “About,” which has your standard synopsis along with comments about the cast and crew, but no separate lists of those either in front of or behind the camera.
“Videos” has the two trailers. “Tumblr” takes you to the posts the studio has made on the blog with GIFs, promotional images with quotes from the characters, videos and more.
Back to those two interactive elements that were promoted on the front page. First, you can take a quiz about your personality and such in order to “Get Your Secret Agent Name.” Or you can play the casual “Central Intellidash” game that lets you try and outrun the bad guys and avoid obstacles as you control the pair of Hart and Johnson in a side-scrolling adventure.
The Facebook page mostly has the same kind of promotional images we previously saw on Tumblr along with some live video from premiere events and a few other things. But mostly it’s just messages about how funny the movie is and when it’s coming out. Same goes for Twitter, except it has lots of RTs of The Rock and Hart, and Instagram.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Lots of TV spots created and run, all of which pulled liberally from the trailers. Some used more of the action footage, some more of the introductory comedy. But they all used the same “Hart / Johnson” copy from the posters and all presented the movie as the laughfest of the year.
I saw more than a few online ads as well, most of which used the key art including the tagline. And there was quite a bit of social advertising done as well on Twitter and Facebook, encouraging fans to watch the trailers, buy tickets or visit the official site.
Media and Publicity
The publicity campaign really kicked off just before the first trailer hit with the release of a batch of official stills. As the movie got closer it was announced Johnson and Hart would co-host the 2016 MTV Movie Awards, a nice way to promote the movie.
The two stars also did the usual media rounds, talking about working together and how funny the movie is and so on. Nothing all that outside the ordinary here that I’m aware of.
My best guess here is that the campaign is aimed at 12 year old boys who still feel like telling dirty jokes at the bus stop is kind of a big deal. That’s the best explanation I can come up with for the repeated use of the “Hart / Johnson” copy on the posters, on the website and in the trailers and TV spots. That copy is all over the place and seems to be the central component of the campaign, meaning the target audience is the kind that still feels calling your wiener a “johnson” is the height of hilarity.
What the campaign has going for it, though, is the sheer determination of Johnson. He’s a force of nature in more than a few ways and has a sizable following both as a wrestler and a movie star. He’s so damned committed to whatever he’s doing and seems to throw everything he has into not only the projects themselves but also their promotion. So while, based on the last few outings, audiences might be tiring of Hart’s schtick, Johnson is still a force to be reckoned with just in terms of sheer personality and charm.