Rawson Marshall Thurber’s “Central Intelligence” takes a tried and true premise – a mistaken identity thriller in the vein of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” – and finds a way to make it just mildly entertaining. The director’s past films, “DodgeBall” and “We’re The Millers,” were pretty straightforward comedies. As he ventures into the realm of the action-infused comedy, Thurber never quite finds the grooves and rhythms of this hybrid genre.
Thankfully, he gets some relief from the dynamic chemistry of the film’s leading men – two high school classmates on very opposite trajectories headed towards their 20-year reunion. Kevin Hart’s Calvin Joyner was the all-around stud that everyone loved and wanted to emulate; now, he flounders behind a desk as an accountant with dwindling prospects for advancement. Dwayne Johnson’s Bob Stone went through high school as Robbie Weirdicht, an affable but friendless face in the crowd relentlessly taunted for having more to love; now, he is “Jason Bourne with jorts.”
Though Calvin was not well-acquainted with Bob in his glory days, he agrees to meet up with him for drinks before the reunion and unwittingly gets drawn into a case of international espionage. The stakes and the object in question do not seem to matter so much (classic MacGuffin) as the constant back and forth between who Calvin can trust – Bob or the CIA agents (led by Amy Ryan) who tote real guns and badges. The changes in allegiance keep “Central Intelligence” on its toes, something that serves it well when gags land lightly or moments for emotional resonance lack power. Hart and Johnson compliment each other nicely, with the former playing more grounded and the latter doing a more ridiculous persona than normal. The talents of both actors, however, feel underserved here. C+ /