Review: ‘Central Intelligence’ flexes comedy muscles

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson brings a loopy comic sensibility to action comedy with Kevin Hart as his co-pilot

Adam Graham, The Detroit News

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson brings a screwy, wide-eyed loopy streak to “Central Intelligence” that is just nutty enough to work.

As Bob Stone, a hulking CIA agent who grew up a bullied fat kid, Johnson has never been funnier or more unpredictable. He plays his role with a big-hearted warmth mixed with a lightning bolt of insanity, and the combination elevates “Central Intelligence” past its standard action comedy pedigree.

Not that “Central Intelligence” is high-level stuff. The storyline, which finds Johnson’s Stone hooking up with his high school pal, Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart), and enlisting him into the world of international espionage, is just a framework for Johnson to let loose and have Hart react to him.

But they make a good enough duo, and Johnson — who can be a lug in by-the-numbers blockbuster fare such as “San Andreas” — is a riot as a character whose bulging masculinity is softened by his love for unicorns (“I’m big time into ’corns!” he brags, while practically tearing through his unicorn emblazoned T-shirt) and John Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles.”

The script by Ike Barinholtz, David Stassen and director Rawson Marshall Thurber (“We’re the Millers”) lets Johnson flex his comedic muscles more than any previous role. And Johnson is eager to please, delivering every line like he woke up early that day and was the first person on set ready to go when cameras rolled. He beams.

“Central Intelligence” otherwise boils down to base-level hijinks with a stock anti-bullying message (and a handful of decent cameos). But Johnson brings the funny. Underneath all that muscle, a comedy star is wrestling to get out, and he’s finally emerged.

Twitter: @grahamorama




Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, some nudity, action violence and brief strong language

Running time: 114 minutes