Movie review of “Central Intelligence”: Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson team up for an uneven comedy about high-school classmates who reunite amid a top-secret CIA case. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Sometimes, matches seemingly made in heaven end up somewhere closer to hell. Whoever thought up the idea of pairing Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart for a crime/caper/comedy was right on the money: The blend of Johnson’s laid-back hero-dudeness and Hart’s whippet-fast comic timing should have been good fun. But somebody, alas, had an idea, though not a good one: Make Johnson the comedian and Hart the straight man. The result is kind of like having ice cream for dinner and steak for dessert — it seems like it might work, but it doesn’t.
Hart, his rat-a-tat-banter kept to a minimum, plays Calvin, a former high-school hero who’s now a mild-mannered accountant. Johnson, decked out in unicorn T-shirt (stretched to the max) and fanny pack, is Bob, a former high-school nerd who now, according to an impressed Calvin, “looks like Hercules.” The two reconnect, 20 years after graduation, when Bob needs Calvin’s help with numbers on a top-secret case: Bob, it turns out, is a CIA operative trying to save the world. Various antics ensue, involving cars, guns, and Bob’s uncanny way of disappearing and reappearing, like he’s a rabbit under a very big hat.
Movie Review ★★
‘Central Intelligence,’ with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, from a screenplay by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and Thurber. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language. Several theaters.
The two men are likable and make a funny sight gag together (about a foot separates them in height), particularly in a shot where Johnson cradles Hart in his massive arms, with the smaller man looking like a terrified baby. And Hart finds a few moments to jump out of the straight-man box, particularly his panicked but precise delivery of the line “Are you quite well?” But the screenplay’s a disjointed mess, the humor’s all over the map (do we really need another movie in which an overweight nude body is used as an endless visual joke?), and even the sudden arrival of a boa constrictor named Snake Gyllenhaal can’t save things. Somebody get these two — and that snake — a better script.