Movie reviews: Central Intelligence, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Ice Age: Collision Course

Central Intelligence 3/5

Movie reviews: Central Intelligence, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Ice Age: Collision Course

High School track star Calvin ‘Golden Jet’ Joyner (Kevin Hart) is voted Most Likely to Succeed as Central Intelligence (12A) opens in 1996.

Twenty years later, as his class reunion looms, Calvin’s life as an accountant is hugely disappointing, and his failures are thrown into sharp relief when he is contacted by Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), formerly the school’s laughing stock but now a lean, mean fighting machine who works for the CIA.

That’s bad enough, but soon Calvin is on the run from the CIA as Bob drags him into a conspiracy to undermine the national security of the USA.

It’s a conventional set-up for an old-fashioned buddy-buddy movie, although the story is almost irrelevant here: Central Intelligence is essentially a vehicle for Hart and Johnson to riff off one another, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber wisely keeps things moving swiftly from one ridiculous scenario to another.

Kevin Hart hasn’t always hit the mark with his motor-mouth shtick, but he’s in fine form here as an Everyman who finds himself in way out of his depth.

Dwayne Johnson, however, steals every scene he’s in from the moment he opens his jacket to reveal more pecs than God intended rippling beneath a T-shirt emblazoned with a rainbow unicorn.

Johnson has been sending up his muscle-bound persona for some years now, but he’s particularly self-deprecating here, a protean blend of childishly wide-eyed naïveté and chillingly ruthless secret agent.

It runs out of steam in the latter stages as the story grows unnecessarily complicated, but even so Central Intelligence has enough charm to make it worth your while.

Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) were already aging disgracefully when the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous debuted in the early 1990s, and the intervening age has neither withered their appetite for the finer things in life nor provided much in the way of wisdom or restraint.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (15A) opens with Edina and Patsy still clubbing, shopping and drinking to excess — much to the dismay of Edina’s long-suffering daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) — until a media frenzy erupts when Edina is accused of drowning a famous model at a fashion label launch on the Thames.

On the run from the paparazzi, and forced into exile in the South of France, the penniless but unbowed duo plot and scheme to bend the movers and shaker of the French Riviera to their indomitable will.

Written by Jennifer Saunders and directed by Mandie Fletcher, Absolutely Fabulous is something of a nostalgia-fest, as Edina and Patsy continue to wallow in the conspicuous consumption the sitcom satirised in the 1990s, even if their ongoing pursuit of youth, beauty and credibility-by-association is now more poignant than laugh-out-loud funny.

That said, there’s plenty of good gags to be had here, quite a few of them courtesy of the outrageously uninhibited Lumley, who has a ball living up to Patsy’s grotesque caricature; meanwhile, Saunders gets good comedy mileage from cramming in a bewildering number of unlikely celebrity cameos, including Graham Norton, Kate Moss, Jon Hamm, Jerry Hall and Jeremy Paxman.

The storyline is as preposterous as its characters, of course, but the most important thing is that it’s all done — happily for Ab Fab fans — in the worst possible taste.

The prehistoric motley crew of Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego the Sabre-Toothed Tiger (Dennis Leary) and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) reunite in Ice Age: Collision Course (G), which opens with Manny forgetting about his and Ellie’s (Queen Latifah) anniversary.

Thankfully, an impending meteor strike distracts Ellie, although with mammals on the verge of extinction if the 300-mile-wide meteor crashes into Earth, Manny’s reprieve may be very short-lived. Can the gang band together and find a way of diverting the ultimate disaster?

The fifth in the series has Ice Age veterans Mike Thurmeier and Galen T Chu at the helm, and there are times when the movie feels like a greatest hits compilation: Manny bickers and moans, Sid cracks jokes and falls hopelessly in love, Buck (Simon Pegg) rushes around buckling his swash, and Scrat the sabre-toothed squirrel pursues his elusive acorn into space.

But while this instalment offers very little that’s new, the ‘Ice Age’ franchise has its own amiable charm, not the least of which is the soap opera-style family developments — now grown up, baby mammoth Peaches (Keke Palmer) is getting married to Julian (Adam Devine), a fact that causes Manny as much grief as his imminent extinction.

Adults may feel that they’ve seen it all before, but the pacing is more frantic and the comedy more slapstick than previously, which will please younger viewers no end.

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