This summer’s latest action comedy, Warner Bros’ “Central Intelligence,” pairs Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart as former high school classmates who reunite for a top-secret CIA mission. While some critics acknowledge the fun, buddy-comedy aspect of the film, most agreed that the chemistry between the two leads couldn’t make up for lackluster writing and plot.
Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times was not impressed with the movie’s execution, and writes, “Sometimes, matches seemingly made in heaven end up somewhere closer to hell. Whoever thought up the idea of pairing Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart for a crime/caper/comedy was right on the money: The blend of Johnson’s laid-back hero-dudeness and Hart’s whippet-fast comic timing should have been good fun. But somebody, alas, had an idea, though not a good one: Make Johnson the comedian and Hart the straight man. The result is kind of like having ice cream for dinner and steak for dessert — it seems like it might work, but it doesn’t.”
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich was equally unimpressed: “With a tepid studio offering like this, in which themes include such bold ideas as “bullies are bad,” “guns are fun,” and “all those haters from high school would worship you if you weren’t so fat,” there’s no hope that Johnson might dive off the deep end and create something special.”
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Jon Frosch of The Hollywood Reporter was a bit more optimistic, writing, “It capitalizes on the chemistry between Hart and Johnson, who convey what seems like genuine delight in each other’s company – something that gives this bromantic diversion a giddy kick.” He adds, however, that “The bar for studio comedies has sunk so low that when one comes along and doesn’t bludgeon you with its ineptness, there’s a temptation to lavish praise on it.”
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman agrees: “It delivers – on some basic, giddy, turn-off-your-frontal-lobes level. It’s an action-comedy utensil, like ‘Rush Hour’ crossed with an old Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot-’em-up, with a few goofy added sprinkles of ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.'”
While many reviews praised the leads while critiquing the film as a whole, Neil Pond of Parade Magazine loved it all. He argues that “If comedy is art, ‘Central Intelligence’ wants to make sure the canvas is well covered—it’s got a big, tall brush, a short, little brush and some very funny painters.”
“Central Intelligence” hits theaters June 17.