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Central Intelligence Review

Emotional Intelligence

Though it looks like a standard odd couple buddy movie, "Central Intelligence" has more surprises than the the tagline -- "Saving the World Takes a little Hart and a big Johnson" -- would suggest.

20 years after graduating, least popular high school student Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson) Facebook friends most popular high school student Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart). Bob has since transformed from the fat kid to a secret agent superhero. Calvin is now a bored accountant. 



The movie doesn't get its intelligence from the plot: Stone needs Calvin's help to save the world from cyber terror (spy satellites, hacked passwords, someone called "The Black Badger," etc...). CIA officer Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) suspects Stone is a rogue agent, and the ensuing shootouts are by-the-book Hollywood exercises (made less entertaining by actual shootings in any number of places recently). A tangential marriage-counseling scene with Calvin and his wife Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) is fairly absurd (absurd-stupid, not absurd-funny).



Stone is built like a hero (and like a "Rock"). But he's a bit awkward socially. He wears a fanny pack and unicorn T-shirt. His favorite movie is "Sixteen Candles." He laments that he will "never be like Molly Ringwald." His job is to fight terrorists, but due to his own high school trauma, it's clear he's been fighting bullies all along. Despite his strength, Stone's own former bully (played by an enjoyably obnoxious Jason Bateman) is still his kryptonite.

Though the physical contrast between its two co-stars is an important aspect of "Central Intelligence," it's really about the contrast between insides and outsides. Both Bob and Calvin have self-esteem issues, and wrestling their own inner demons proves more difficult (and more interesting) than fighting the bad guys.

Directed and co-written by Rawson Marshall Thurber, "Central Intelligence" asks us to stand up for the little guy. And it turns out the little guy is not Kevin Hart, but our selves.

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