[WARNING: Mild spoilers for Central Intelligence ahead.]
A little Hart and a big Johnson hit theaters this weekend in Central Intelligence. The action-comedy stars Kevin Hart as Calvin Joyner, a former high school golden boy turned accountant, who reunites with Bob Stone, played by Dwayne Johnson, a fellow classmate who left school after a particularly embarrassing incident and became a member of the CIA. Central Intelligence was directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers), who worked on the script with writing duo Ike Barinholtz and David Stassen (The Mindy Project).
The team-up of Johnson and Hart is likely enticing to many moviegoers given each star has amassed plenty of fan favor that is easily reflected in their box office clout. Between Johnson's experience in action and Hart's in comedy, Central Intelligence is poised to be a fun summer action-comedy romp, but both stars hope viewers take away a more grounded message from the film.
At a press conference in which Screen Rant was in attendance, the actors spoke about the deeper message behind the film - particularly as epitomized by Hart's character Calvin, who spends much of Central Intelligence disappointed in the trajectory of his life after high school. Hart explained:
"I think the overall message we're giving in this film is regardless of where you are or who you are, be happy with that person and that position. At the end of the day, there's happiness in everything and that's what these two characters have to realize and find within themselves."
Johnson elaborated by saying that particular message being included in Central Intelligence was important to him from his first conversation with Thurber. Referring to the characters of Bob and Calvin - though many moviegoers will likely relate to the sentiment as well - Johnson spoke about "embracing who you are," "understanding the blessings," and taking "a moment when you slow down and look around" and appreciate what you have.
Additionally, Hart explained how Thurber played a big role in helping the actors to balance this grounded and relatable message with the more over-the-top action-comedy aspects of Central Intelligence:
"Rawson did a great job at making sure that we understood the path of these characters and kept it in a grounded reality. I think those lines could have easily gotten blurred with the direction that we chose, if we chose to do things differently. ... Rawson did a really good job at keeping us on that line and telling the story and making sure those stories are absolutely clear."
Whether Central Intelligence is successful in relating this particular message that Hart and Johnson outline is largely up to the moviegoer. For the film's part, it has mainly been marketed as a summer buddy comedy - with the actual plot of the film, the reason for Bob seeking out Calvin's character, and their respective emotional arcs left to the theater. So, audiences may not be expecting the underlying theme that the stars spoke about, particularly in their characters learning to find happiness in their lives.
Still, both Bob's and Calvin's story arcs in Central Intelligence largely have to do with them reconciling how their experiences in high school - no matter how opposite they may be - have affected their lives in the years since. Given that high school is a commonly shared experience, this arc may be relatable to many viewers. Although moviegoers may head to the theater to catch the team-up of Johnson and Hart, the stars worked to make sure Central Intelligence also delivers a message that will hit home with members of the audience.
Central Intelligence is now playing in U.S. theaters.