Here’s definitive proof that a single performance can make an entire film. The premise of ‘Central Intelligence’ is simplistic and underwhelming: a former high school star turned jobsworth accountant teams up with former bullying victim turned CIA agent to take down a terrorist mastermind. The script is equally lazy, and leading man Kevin Hart as the office drone offers his usual tiresome, overcooked ‘LOOK AT ME I’M BEING FUNNY’ schtick. So thank the movie gods for Dwayne Johnson, who delivers a performance of such charm, such unexpected goofiness that the screen practically glows every time he appears.
It doesn’t begin well: we first meet Johnson in a creepy CG-enhanced fatsuit as a chubby teenage nerd Robbie, whose horrible high school experience is relieved only by the kindness of Calvin (Hart), football hero and student-most-likely-to-succeed. But 20 years later it’s a different story: Calvin is washed up and bored with his dead-end life, while Robbie has become a globetrotting superspy with a fetish for unicorns.
There’s literally nothing unloveable about Johnson’s performance, hitting a perfect balance point somewhere between traumatised adolescent, unbreakable superhero and overexcited man-child (think a peak-form John Candy trapped in the body of, well, The Rock). And even more impressively, he makes it all look completely effortless, breezing through the movie while Hart jumps frantically up and down and stuff explodes pointlessly in the background.