I won’t beleaguer too much of what passes for “C.I’s” inept and lazy script. Suffice it to say, I walked out of this movie during the blooper reel before the end credits: yes, you heard me right- the blooper reel. For those who’ve experienced the horror, the blooper reel’s the death knell for any comedy that has tried to force laughs down your throat for two hours and then decides to cram whatever it has left in a last ditch effort to make you like it. It doesn’t work.
Here’s what passes for “C.I’s” story: In 1996, Robbie Weirdicht- pronounced “weird dick”- (Dwayne Johnson) is the fat kid high school senior who gets humiliated by being forcibly thrown naked into the assembly awarding Calvin ‘Golden Jet’ Joyner (Kevin Hart) the best all-around senior (or some such nonsense). Calvin, feeling what passes for empathy, gives Robbie his jacket to cover himself. Twenty years later, upon Central High’s reunion for the class of ’96, Robbie reaches out to Calvin via Facebook under the name of Bob Stone. Calvin, now a lowly accountant from the high school superstar he once was and just passed over for a promotion at work, tries to dodge suggested marriage counseling from his prom queen wife (Danielle Nicolet) by accepting Robbie/Bob’s invitation for drinks at a local sports bar. Upon meeting Robbie/Bob after two decades, Calvin is immediately impressed that Robbie/Bob has lost the blubber and become a lean, mean fighting machine (albeit Robbie/Bob wears a goofy unicorn T-shirt and fanny pack because, physical looks aside, nerds are still nerds).
After a nonsensical altercation at said sports bar is thwarted by Robbie/Bob easily pummeling some local cretins, Robbie/Bob asks Calvin for a favor. Robbie/Bob asks Calvin to look at a financial website, because Calvin’s an accountant see, and tell Robbie/Bob…oh, what’s the point. It all boils down to Robbie/Bob using Calvin’s financial acumen to gain access to a website to find the location of a meeting between a foreign buyer and the in-country traitor called ‘The Black Badger’ who’s selling encryption codes: Robbie/Bob’s actually a C.I.A. agent (or at least a rogue agent) and the C.I.A’s after him for the intel, or maybe because he’s ‘The Black Badger”. Either way, now that Robbie/Bob’s got Calvin involved by friending him on Facebook, the C.I.A’s after Calvin too.
If this scenario of a mild-mannered man’s acquaintance with a maybe-rogue C.I.A. agent putting the man in harm’s way sounds familiar, you’ve seen Arthur Hiller’s 1979 film “The In-Laws” with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. What “The In-Laws” did so well and what “C.I.” lacks are well-drawn characters: in “C.I.,” Johnson’s Robbie/Bob comes off as a mentally-scarred man-child who can become a one-man wrecking crew when the need arises leaving Hart to act frazzled and frantic trying to get away from him but still needing him to get out of sticky situations; “In-Laws” worked better by using Arkin as a foil to Falk’s hidden C.I.A. agenda- Falk’s blasé attitude easing Arkin’s exasperation played better by having us wonder whether Falk knew what he was doing whether Falk was simply certifiable. When “C.I’s” Robbie/Bob acts blasé, he comes off as a simpleton.
The unrealistic nature of “C.I.” extends to its overdose of action: I’ve never seen CIA agents empty their clips into a crowded office and not wonder about the implications of wounding one of the dozen or so civilians in their way (at least when the bullets flew in “In-Laws,” we got “Serpentine” introduced into our cinematic lexicon). Even the way Johnson and Hart extricate themselves from their dilemmas isn’t believable, whether it’s jumping out of buildings onto inflatable gorillas or shooting each other to create diversions. While certain scenes and plot points in “C.I” are noticeably refashioned from “The In-Laws” (you can tell “C.I’s” screenwriters used the film as their blueprint), what’s missing is the depth of its main characters- I still don’t know why Calvin was called ‘the Golden Jet’ in high school.
Without depth, you’re only left with the dynamic. For the duo in “Central Intelligence,” having a dynamic doesn’t mean they are dynamic.