Dwayne Johnson is the quintessence of charisma. In an industry where franchises are more bankable than movie stars, he is one of the few exceptions. He could play the foulest villain and you would still root for him. Which is why I cannot understand why in Central Intelligence, Johnson is plays the funny sidekick rather than wacky hero.
Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was the most popular guy in high school. Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson) was not. But when they reconnect years later, Calvin is shocked to find that the formerly overweight and bullied Bob is now a fit CIA agent who needs Calvin’s help to protect the security of all Americans. As an accountant, Calvin is neither qualified nor prepared for the dangerous mission in store. But Bob is committed to working together with his high school hero.
Johnson and Hart have wonderful chemistry and Central Intelligence is at its best when they are on screen together. There are several moments of hilarity and absurdity that will make the film worthwhile. Yet, even at his funniest, Kevin Hart is no Dwayne Johnson. The film only starts getting interesting when Johnson shows up after a slow ten-minute introduction to Hart’s character. Central Intelligence makes the mistake of assuming that audiences want to stay with Hart’s character throughout the entire story when all everyone wants is to watch Johnson kick butt and make them laugh.
The action leaves much to be desired as well, lacking in creativity and humor. Although the film is an action comedy, it struggles to create memorable moments on both fronts. Another factor working against Central Intelligence is its tone. There is a mystery element to the story that is unusually serious in comparison to the rest of the film. Johnson’s character is unexpectedly untrustworthy and for most of the film, you are not sure if it’s okay to like him despite wanting to. While this makes me want to see Johnson play a morally grey anti-hero in a thriller, for Central Intelligence it’s an odd direction to take.
Overall, Central Intelligence is an average film at best. Yes, there will be laughs during the screening, but after a couple days, its forgettable nature will begin to make itself known. Unless you want to see a film that is a mere shadow of what it could have potentially been, I would skip this one.
Central Intelligence was released June 17, 2016.