Central Intelligence

Jun 16, 2016

It's a typical buddy comedy with some nice touches beyond the stereotypes.

Central Intelligence

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: B-

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re the Millers)

Screenplay:  Thurber, Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas), Kevin Hart (About Last Night)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hr 54 min

by John DeSando

A comedy crime film has a dual burden: being funny and suspenseful at the same time.  Central Intelligence tries to be both and succeeds some of the time, mostly on the comedic side. Surprisingly, its thematic elements about bullying and humans reaching potential elevate the film above quips and slapstick.

Bob (Dwayne Johnson) and Calvin (Kevin Hart), former high school chums, get involved 20 years later in a haphazard investigation of a secret government activity that involves foreign spies and questionable US agents. The challenge of determining who is good and who is bad is middlin’ but entertaining.

Their  friendship goes back to when Calvin, the “Golden Jet,” was the most likely to succeed senior and Bob the obese object of bullying; their hookup now before the reunion provides a chance for the director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, and his writers to run a theme about “what have you done with your life?”

Calvin feels as an accountant he has not reached the heights his early accomplishments promised, despite the fact that he married the best female in the class, who became a successful attorney.

Bob, on the other hand, has grown from a fat boy into, well, the “The Rock,” with marvelous muscles, a world-class smile, exuberance, and a job with the CIA.  That he still idolizes Calvin is a questionable obsession until we figure out a couple of the reasons. Overall Bob seems to have a more balanced life.

The comedic parts are sometimes of a higher order, for instance, when Calvin explains he doesn’t do therapy because he’s Black, goes to the barbershop, and watches Barbershop movies. The largely African-American audience at my screening enjoyed the stereotyping.

Central Intelligence has numerous stock jokes and situations for the buddy comedy, especially the mixed races and the little man paired with a veritable giant (think Wilder and Pryor, Gibson and Glover, and Murphy and Nolte for the races)... One thing is for sure, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson are an intelligent comedy team, which should be central to our summer enjoyment for years to come.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at