Central Intelligence‘s problem isn’t the casting, nor the premise, nor the humour. It’s the clear lack of effort to distinguish itself from other films of the sort because in spite of the sporadically entertaining moments coming about thanks to the chemistry built between Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson, Central Intelligence is never really trying to do more. Not that that’s already a bad thing as the film as a whole could really have been much worse than what we have received, but when one can already predict the sort of route without much else presented worth noting, what we’re left with is a series of tired jokes that in turn, never end up going anywhere because of a clear lack of a sense of direction. At its worst, all that Central Intelligence gives off is really nothing more than wasted potential.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Robbie Weirdicht, a muscle-bound CIA agent who, during his high school years, was humiliated as he was singing in the shower and eventually thrown out into the court completely naked in front of the whole student body. He was helped by Kevin Hart’s Calvin Joyner, whom together with his girlfriend, was not laughing at the embarrassing incident and offered to cover him up. In the present day, Calvin ends up reuniting with Robbie and from there, shenanigans galore. Whatever promise could have been implied from the backstory ends up damaging what follows along, for the mix of high school tropes into a buddy comedy ends up falling flat as Central Intelligence is never willing to be subversive with them.
Observing the beats that follow the opening of the film, what follows is a rather tired story that only warrants itself more uneventful as the film goes on. The story of Central Intelligenceconsists of nothing more than the usual tropes of a buddy cop comedy and in turn, it comes off as lazy. The action sequences feel so uninspired, but that wouldn’t be surprising given as that’s a perfect descriptor for the whole movie. It’s a rather highly predictable story that will soon fade out of one’s memory not too long enough because we can only come to remember other films that play along this sort of narrative that are far more interesting for it certainly feels as if at least they are trying to be much more, something that Central Intelligence lacks the willingness to do. A good amount of the humour comes out from pop culture references, cameos (Melissa McCarthy makes one as Dwayne Johnson’s high school crush), or social media interactions, but they don’t do much to add to the actual story of the film.
Kevin Hart can be funny when it comes to his own standup, but on film it does not seem as if his routine transfers very well. That said, what’s admirable about his presence in Central Intelligence is that the loudmouth he creates does feel rather controlled, and he’s at least much more tolerable than what you might have remembered out of a film like Ride Along or Get Hard. His mix together with Dwayne Johnson makes for something sporadically entertaining, for the chemistry between the two is where the most energetic moments of Central Intelligence arise. The mix between the two is weird, but the best moments come out from Dwayne Johnson’s charisma for once in a line, you will get a wise one-liner coming out of him. There’s not really enough that saves the whole film, sadly.
It seems as if most of the laziness running through Central Intelligence though comes from the faults of director Rawson Marshall Thurber. At best, Central Intelligence is indeed a step up from We’re The Millers (which I loathed), but it doesn’t say all that much. Once in a while, you’ll get an attempt at hitting a more emotional beat and the way to which he handles Dwayne Johnson’s backstory and its effects upon present day are amongst the more impressive aspects of the film. Yet even with these elements coming in, the fact that he doesn’t try all that much to be different is where Central Intelligence falls flat and leaves us with what really is just an empty film all around. Potential shows once in a while, but it feels more as if the laziness ends up wasting most of it away.
Terrible marketing may put one off, but at its worst Central Intelligence is just a hollow film all around. Once in a while you will get a funny line coming from Dwayne Johnson, but there’s not enough coming on to lift up what already proves itself to be just uneventful all around. The best I can say is that Central Intelligence may be the best film performance I have seen from Kevin Hart for at least he seems to be trying more in here, but knowing the standards of his work on film that sadly doesn’t say all too much. You really can get much worse than what Central Intelligence is giving, as then and there you’re going to find an entertaining sequence but it’s a shame that what bombards them is an aura of nothingness.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via New Line Cinema.
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
Screenplay by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen, Rawson Marshall Thurber
Produced by Michael Fottrell, Peter Principato, Scott Stuber, Paul Young
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 107 minutes