Twenty years ago, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was voted most popular student in high school and at the celebration in the hall where everyone was attending he was mid-speech when something unfortunate occurred: Robbie (Dwayne Johnson) arrived. He arrived completely naked. He had been showering in the boys' locker room when the bullies descended and dragged him out of there, down the corridor and bursting through the doors to land in the middle of the floor, mortified. The whole school erupted in hysterical laughter, but Calvin didn't, he felt very sorry for the boy and offered him his jacket to preserve his modesty. It took the shine off the day for him: but not as much as what happened in the two decades since.
Back in the eighties, the idea of pairing a comedian with a tough guy actor, or at least an actor adopting a tough persona for the movie, was a relatively novel idea, but come the twenty-tens it was looking less fresh and more like a fall-back position for two stars seeking to team up and pool their resources, not to mention their fanbases. So it was with Central Intelligence, uniting a major action man with Johnson, the erstwhile Rock, and comedian of the moment Hart, which the cynics saw straight through as a lazy item of casting and it followed that they would judge the results accordingly. However, then a funny thing happened, literally, as this turned out to be pretty amusing.
It may not have been absolutely hilarious from start to finish, but there were enough solid laughs to create something worthwhile, almost all from the interplay between the two stars who hogged the limelight with surprisingly engaging buddy movie chemistry. Perhaps it was the odd couple cliché proving more true for entertainment than many were going to admit seeing as how it came across as the most basic example of aiming to be chucklesome that a comedy thriller could conjure up, but these two were genuinely bringing out the best in one another, and for Hart especially this union delivered on his promise as the breakout star for this decade's big screen humour, his work previous to this had been successful but looked down on, yet here he impressed.
The joke premise was that most likely to succeed Calvin had gone to college, married his high school girlfriend Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), and settled down to a life of mundanity as an accountant who lived in the suburbs, but was overlooked for promotion, and had failed to start the family his wife wished for thanks to how hard he had to work, therefore had never found the time. Some would say marrying a beautiful professional lawyer and making enough salary to own a nice house and be, as far as we can see, fairly comfortable wasn't so bad compared to a raft of alternatives, but Calvin always dreamed of more, and now he is acknowledging it is never going to happen. Or will it? He is contacted by Robbie, now calling himself Bob Stone, who suggests in his goofy manner that they should meet up that evening for a drink.
What does Calvin have to lose? He wasn't planning on attending the twenty year school reunion anyway, so may as well catch up with the picked on nerd, if nothing else he is curious to see how he turned out (which is presumably the point of school reunions, but hey). Yet when they do meet, well, obviously Robbie has shed the pounds, shot up a foot in height, and become The Rock, though a nice touch was that no matter how much of a bruiser he appears, he's still the same nerdy guy inside, an important point when the theme was overcoming the bad in your past, especially bullying, and admitting you're not the poor excuse for a human being the haters tried to convince you of. Not that Central Intelligence stuck with this rich seam all the way through, as it was frequently distracted by a sub-James Bond plotline as it transpired Robbie was a secret agent trying to save the world, or maybe just delusional. Johnson played this ambiguity to the hilt, and if his actual motives were far from a shock, simply seeing he and Hart bounce lines off the other was a pleasure, if a little modest when the setting was this conventional. But a good show, for all that. Music by Ludwig Göransson and Theodore Shapiro.