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'Central Intelligence' close enough for government work
Whats in with Justin
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart star in "Central Intelligence." - photo by Studio photo

From "Lethal Weapon" to "Bad Boys" to "Rush Hour," the buddy action-comedy has been one of the most overplayed, tried-and-true, clichéd genres out there.

How many times can the genre do it right? Some do it better than others; see the ones I just mentioned. Others are instantly forgettable, but that’s not quite where "Central Intelligence" falls.

The movie stars Dwayne Johnson as Bob Stone, who gets in touch with his high school best friend Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart). During their senior year in 1996, Calvin helped save Bob from total embarrassment in front of the whole school after a nasty prank was pulled on him due to his obesity.

Now, 20 years later, they reunite for their reunion, and Bob is no longer that obese kid. Now he looks like, well, The Rock. On the other hand, Calvin was pretty much Mr. Popular and now works as a frustrated accountant.

It isn’t long before Bob’s real motives take front and center. He asks for Calvin’s help by asking him to take a look at his financial records, and Calvin stumbles upon the fact that Bob is a rogue CIA agent. After that, the movie becomes a typical series of shootouts and chases with time out for some wise-guy dialogue that hits as often as it misses.

Hart has always been hit or miss with me as well. He does get some funny moments, including a fight scene involving him beating up a guy using only a banana. I guess if Jason Bourne can use a magazine, a good source of potassium comes in handy as well.

"Central Intelligence" can be a lot of fun. It does go heavy-handed on some plot elements involving double identity and other devices that make it feel hackneyed or even convoluted. But in the end, it’s the undeniable chemistry between Johnson and Hart that holds it together. Sometimes the gags and one-liners fall flat, but there’s always another one that makes up for it.

It’s not as smart or clever as its counterpart, "The Nice Guys," and maybe it was not meant to be. I think the best thing to say is that it delivers nothing but serviceable summer entertainment, and that’s all you should expect.

Grade: B

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

Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.

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