It’s safe to say Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has earned the title of superstar. He is charismatic, tireless, and the closest thing we have to a mythical giant. With a laundry list of films announced through 2019 (whose extensiveness would make Nic Cage shudder) Johnson is letting the world know the era of the ‘acton star’ is alive and well. With all things going Johnson’s way I would guess his biggest problem has remained fitting through a standard size door frame. Kevin Hart is the ideal co-star who has proved that he can be funny even if the movie isn’t. Fortunately Central Intelligence is clever enough on its own that Hart is not left stranded.
After not seeing each other for 20 years, Calvin (Kevin Hart) is tracked down by high school classmate Robbie (Dwayne Johnson) to catch up on the eve of their high school reunion. Robbie has transformed himself over the past 20 years from a fat loser into the ultimate badass. Calvin, who in high school was voted most likely to succeed, has settled for mediocrity in adulthood by becoming an accountant. After the two go out for drinks Robbie reveals to Calvin that he was in the CIA and is now on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. Despite his reluctance, Calvin is swept into the espionage mess and together the two attempt to take down the true criminals.
Despite a shaky first 10 minutes, the film finds a comfortable groove with-well timed jokes and a steady stream action. The two stars work well off one another and their chemistry feels genuine. Hart is hilarious as always even if we have seen him play similar roles in the past. Johnson’s Robbie meanwhile is somewhere between tough and severely insecure. It’s his unique story and persona that helps the film go above and beyond the buddy cop norms.
In a sea of R-rated comedies, CI throws out its PG-13 rating and stays effortlessly afloat. In fact, CI is funnier than many of its R rated brethren, proving once again that vulgarity is not essential. It seems the R rating has become more of a crutch than a green light to push the envelope. Central Intelligence works well within the confines of the Pg-13 rating, making it all the more admirable. It is a testament to the power of situational comedy that doesn’t require the f bomb as its punch line.
In a nut shell: While Central Intelligence’s beginning and end fall a little flat, the meat of the film is lean and nourishing. Its ancillary characters can’t hit the same high notes as its leads, which is no surprise when dealing with Hart and Johnson. If you are a fan of either of these two stars, you wont be disappointed. (3 out of 4)