Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Central Intelligence is a buddy-action comedy starring the Rock as Bob Stone, aka Robby Wierdich (pronounced Weird Dick), and Kevin Hart as Calvin Joyner. The movie opens in 1996, when “Weird Dick” (The Rock) was obese and sappy while Calvin was cool. After finding Weird Dick singing naked in the school’s shower, a few bullies grab him and toss him out in front of the school body at an assembly and only Calvin comes to Weird Dick’s aid. Fast-forward twenty years, to 2016: Calvin has married his high-school sweetheart (Danielle Nicolet) and works as an accountant; he’s disappointed with how life’s turned out for him—his uninteresting prospects, his bland existence. The plot turns when Calvin gets a Facebook Friend Request from Bob Stone from Anytown, USA, whose interests include Unicorns and the movie 16 Candles. Out of fearful propriety Calvin accepts the invitation and learns that Bob Stone is Robby Weird Dick’s new name, and that Robbie has now physically transformed. This first act is the best part of the movie: character trumps story, the pace is not too fast, and Kevin Hart and the Rock establish a charming rapport. After that, however, the main plot—of the espionage-intrigue/framed-righteous-fugitive variety—kicks in, and Central Intelligence turns conventional. But the movie doesn’t sink, because of its spry physical comedy, Kevin Hart’s ability to play a delightful straight man, potty and porn humor, and effective supporting turns from Jason Bateman, Aaron Paul, and Amy Ryan. When it’s not an action-comedy, Central Intelligence is an anti-bullying PSA with a facilely Freudian angle about overcoming your fears.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White