Opening in theaters this weekend is one of the most surprising, yet perfect matches in Hollywood buddy comedy history's new film: Central Intelligence. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart swap from their standard types to deliver one of the most fun movies of the year with layers of action and complexity peppered across the top.
Following up on other original comedy efforts such as Dodgeball and We're The Millers, director Rawson Thurber is gifted two of the world's biggest stars who happen to have unmatchable chemistry in their time on screen. While both of Thurber's aforementioned films are divisive among critics, they landed well with many audiences and Central Intelligence will likely follow suit. The film is exactly what the trailers make it out to be: silly, funny, and reliant on its two main stars.
To start out, we meet the high school version of Johnson and Hart's Robbie Wheirdicht and Calvin Joyner. Their teenage years couldn't have been more different. Robbie spent his time dancing alone in locker room showers to ultimately be teased by every kid in school over his weight while Calvin was the star athlete and most beloved student (literally in the whole country). Unlike the rest of the school, Calvin didn't take to making fun of Robbie and that was never forgotten - even when fat young Robbie grew up to be, well, The Rock.
Upon reuniting, Calvin is feeling down on life having turned out to be an accountant with an average home and daily routine while Robbie, now going by Bob, has become a bad-ass secret agent. In ways which would be spoiling to reveal, they definitely need each other but that goes for both their characters and as actors in the film. Their chemistry is as smooth as butter from the jump. Be it Thurber's director, their comedic timing, or a mixture of both, Central Intelligence really gives Johnson a chance to show off his comedic chops while standing next to arguably the world's largest comedy star.
While Hart is typically the silly, playful protagonist of his films, he sometimes takes a backseat to Johnson's Bob who serves as a huge portion of the film's comedy. That's not to say Hart doesn't deliver time and time again but Johnson's take on this dim witted yet brute of a character is nothing less than entertaining with every passing second he is on screen. It's not just the pair who make the film funny, though. Writers Ike Barinholtz (MadTV, Neighbors) and David Stassen (The Mindy Project) toss in a few fun references which audiences who are up to speed on pop culture will definitely get an extra kick out of (and don't leave when the movie is over - the outtakes played during the film's credits just might have you wiping tears of laughter from your face).
Mixed into the comedy are a handful of action scenes. They're not what you'll leave the theater talking about but they'll help keep you engaged with a movie that could have possibly fallen flat at times otherwise. Plus, you can tell these scenes are when Johnson is really the most comfortable. His comedy may deliver but when he gets the opportunity to suit up in a bit of body armor and sling weapons and fists at enemies, he looks to be right at home.
Also helping carry the film are a surprising amount of cameos which were very well kept secrets. Unlike the Entourage movie which just tosses celebrities into the mix for a moment so we can say, "Oh, look! Ed Harris!" Central Intelligence gives a trio of unexpected cameo appearances good use. Sure, the film would have worked without them, but they're still there adding to the fun.
The most surprising aspect of Central Intelligence, aside from the cameos, has to be its complexity. At times, the film borders attempting to be too mysterious for its own good, but the comedy and action manage to keep us interested in who the no good "Black Badger" really is and if Bob and Calvin will stop his treasonous plans. It's not exactly The Departed in terms of story telling but for a Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart buddy comedy, it has more depth than one might suspect before sitting down in the theater.
All in all, Central Intelligence is a blast. It deserves to be watched in a crowded theater where laughter is contagious and quoted on the drive home. It's a refreshing and original comedy in an era of reboots and sequels with a pair of shining actors carrying it to great heights.
Bottom Line: Johnson and Hart are silly, fun, and packed with action being tossed into an almost right amount of complexity for Central Intelligence. 4 out of 5 stars.