Starring Dwayne Johnson. Rated PG. Now playing
As a buddy movie, Central Intelligence isn’t all that centered or intelligent. We’ve seen dozens of spy-on-the-run comedies just like it over the years, so what does this one have going for it? In short: a pair of genuinely likable stars who employ a fair amount of charm to try and keep things less than predictable.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Bob Stone, a former high school geek who’s transformed himself into a CIA agent with the body of a Roman gladiator. He’s capable of disabling four guys in a bar fight without breaking a sweat. The twist? Bob’s still a chubby nerd at heart. He loves unicorns because “they’re magical.” His favourite movie—Sixteen Candles—still makes him cry.
When Bob has to track down some satellite codes to discover the mysterious identity of a bad guy known as Black Badger, he enlists the aid of former high school superstar Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart). Calvin was Bob’s idol back in school, but life hasn’t worked out as planned for him. These days, he’s a frustrated accountant with a career that’s going nowhere.
Enter Bob, who lures Calvin into the shadowy world of espionage. Calvin isn’t too thrilled about this, since it seems to have great potential for bodily harm. But Bob is sweetly persistent. And, when persuasion doesn’t work, he simply sweeps Calvin along with one of his gigantic arms.
Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers) keeps things moving fast enough so that we don’t have time to consider the improbability of all this. But, if there’s any real pleasure here, it’s watching Johnson handle his role like a pro while a frenetic Kevin Hart cranks up his voice to helium-sucking levels. There are times when it’s almost enough to make you forget a very tired premise.