(NEW YORK) –Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Bob Stone. When Bob was in high school, he was short, extremely overweight and liked to dance in the school shower. The day they were handing out awards to high school seniors, Bob was accosted in the shower by some class bullies and thrown, naked, into the gymnasium, while Kevin Hart’s very popular Calvin, voted “most likely to succeed” by his classmates, was giving those classmates a pep talk. While everybody laughed at Bob, Calvin gave him his letterman jacket to cover up.
Two decades later, and with his 20th high school reunion looming, Calvin is a forensic accountant — not nearly as successful as he wants to be. He even gets passed over for a promotion by his former assistant. But much to his surprise, Bob reaches out to Calvin. Even more to his surprise, Bob looks like – well, he looks like The Rock, albeit The Rock wearing a unicorn t-shirt under a hoodie.
By the next morning, Calvin learns Bob is — or at least, was — in the CIA, and is currently wanted for treason and murder. Bob’s hoping Calvin, the only person who was nice to him in high school, will help him decipher some codes that are the key to the whole thing, while the rest of the CIA, led by a tough agent played by Amy Ryan, is trying to kill them both.
At its heart, Central Intelligence sets out to be relatable to those of us who, at one time or another, have been bullied. And thanks to its stars, it doesn’t need to have a good story or a particularly good script to be entertaining. Which is fortunate, because this by no means is a good piece of filmmaking. It’s not even a very good comedy. What it is, is a comedy that teams two of the most charismatic people in Hollywood: Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson.
Four or five years ago, this movie wouldn’t have been as entertaining because Johnson hadn’t come into his own as a movie star. If he took a risk in a film, it wasn’t believable. If he attempted to be dramatic, it wasn’t believable. He still mostly relied on his brawn and his striking looks. These days, however, Johnson is a much more formidable presence on screen. That helps balance Hart, who’s also needed time to come into his own.
Central Intelligence is Johnson’s most complete performance, and Hart does an admirable job letting his co-star get some of the movie’s bigger laughs. Their terrific chemistry is entertaining and overcomes some glaring weaknesses in a script that gets overzealous in its desire to balance heart with humor.
Three out of five stars.
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