It’s a wonderful day in film when a comedy is actually quite funny and as entertaining as you hoped it would be. Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson both have great comedic chops and it’s a treat to see them onscreen together in “Central Intelligence.” Part duo comedy, part action, the film also adds another layer and explores, however superficially, how high school bullying trauma can very well affect the person you become. Johnson and Hart work very well together and their onscreen camaraderie is what makes the film stand out.

Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) is an accountant. He married his high school sweetheart, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), right after college. And although he loves his wife and is good at his job, he’s not happy with where he ultimately ended up. Back in high school, he was captain of the football team, president of the drama club, and played various other sports. Nicknamed “Golden Jet,” Calvin was an over-achiever and voted most likely to succeed. Not knowing where all of that ambition went, his mood isn’t helped by his approaching twenty year high school reunion.

Everything changes, however, when Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), friend requests him on Facebook and immediately messages him to meet up. Calvin, surprised that Bob would contact him after all this time, shows up and gets way more than he bargained for. Bob is practically a Calvin fanboy. Claiming him as his best friend, Bob has clung to Calvin all these years because he was the only person to be kind to him in high school after a group of guys threw him into the middle of the gym, naked, embarrassing Bob so much he dropped out of school afterward. So, of course Calvin has nothing but wide eyes when he learns that Bob, who changed his name from Robbie Weirdicht, is now a CIA agent. But perhaps outside of not expecting Bob to pop back into his life, Calvin is taken aback when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law when the pair are tracked down by other agents, headed by Amy Ryan, who are convinced that Bob is an agent gone rogue.

In all honesty, “Central Intelligence” isn’t only funny, but it brings up serious topics and finds ways to touch upon them while keeping it lighthearted. Johnson and Hart have such an easy camaraderie and chemistry onscreen that it’s not difficult to believe that they would be the best of buddies. Add to that the height and size difference between the two that is played for laughs and it’s practically comedic gold. It’s somewhat of a unique dynamic because, although Johnson’s character grows up to be tall, buff, and a slick field agent, he’s still very much the guy from high school: Excitable, sensitive, and not overly confident. Bob’s transformation after high school is the definition of what many of us aim to be as adults, but at the same time, we’re still quick to admire the people we look up to who we believe to be better than us. And this is exactly Bob and Calvin’s dynamic.

Most of the CIA part of the story is made up of a lot of ridiculousness, even though it… mostly makes sense. Amy Ryan is the no-nonsense head of the team trying to track Johnson, and her team’s ability to constantly be outsmarted by Hart becomes stranger and more entertaining as it goes on. What makes the film a good comedy is that none of its gags go on for very long. Hart goes off on several humorous rants, but they’re more contained and don’t last longer than they should before the duo is off to the next sequence. “Central Intelligence” has plenty of humor, a great onscreen bromance, and is really fun. It touches upon a lot of relevant issues like bullying and learning not to settle if your happiness or potential lies elsewhere, and also serves as a reminder that kindness, no matter how small, is always appreciated and goes a long way. All of this is wrapped up in lighthearted and outlandish comedy that sets out to be a fairly memorable outing for both Johnson and Hart.

70%
70%
Great

"Central Intelligence" has plenty of humor, a great onscreen bromance, and is really fun. It touches upon a lot of relevant issues like bullying and learning not to settle if your happiness or potential lies elsewhere, and also serves as a reminder that kindness, no matter how small, is always appreciated and goes a long way.

3.5star

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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