Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson. With such a clever, cheeky tagline, the big screen pairing of a snack-sized Kevin Hart with man-mountain Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson held a huge amount of promise. Sadly, the ingenuity ended with the poster for this ropey, incoherent action-comedy. The mis-matched pairing of its two leads may make for a delightful, surprisingly charming double act, but Central Intelligence just doesn’t have the wit to match their infectious chemistry.
Which is a shame because there’s a great idea behind this movie. Twenty years after Johnson’s chubby dork is humiliated by high school bullies, he returns for a class reunion as a new man, having swapped the fat for muscles and landed a job as a rogue CIA agent. For Hart’s homecoming king, life hasn’t turned out quite so well. Having peaked in a senior year, he now finds himself trapped in a childless, professionally unfulfilling existence as a forensic accountant. But when the Rock bursts back into his life in need of help, it kicks off a whirlwind of spy nonsense that has something to do with a dark-web version of e-bay and satellite codes.
Central Intelligence works best when it focuses on the cool kid/fat kid dynamic of high school playing out in adult life. There’s something irresistibly amusing about The Rock acting like a nerdy, unicorn-loving chump despite looking like, well, The Rock. Hart, too, is much more appealing when playing the straight man as it forces him to dial back his usual high-pitched antics to allow his co-star to take centre stage.
But there’s only so much the unlikely double act can do when they’re working from a script as tired and lifeless as this one. Though it has its heart-warming moments – particularly as Johnson’s character faces his childhood insecurities – there’s nothing groundbreaking here. The action, while busy and well choreographed, feels bloodless and perfunctory while the jokes offer plenty of profanity and silliness but are hardly inspired. It doesn’t help that gags about Twilight and friend request etiquette are about five years out of date. The script would have benefited from a final polish to sharpen its focus, but instead the writers try to coast on the considerable charisma of their two leads without offering them enough material to make it work.
They may be enough to save the world, but it would take more than a little Hart and a big Johnson to save this shoddy action comedy.
Runtime: 107 mins; Genre: Action/Comedy; Released: 29 June 2016;
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber; Writers: Rawson Marshall Thurber, Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen;
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet