by Ryan Hills
In the opening scene of “This Means War,” Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are two CIA spies on the lookout for a man named Heinrich they have to take into custody. After sharing a bromantic moment where they each say they would take a bullet for the other, their boss interrupts the love fest to tell them over a speakerphone they need to be “covert” with their mission.
One silly shootout later, the friends are scolded for not being “covert” with what is now a failed mission, as Heinrich has escaped. The scene is the entirety of “This Means War” in a nutshell. It tries in vain to be smooth and entertaining but instead turns out to be the exact opposite of what they were trying to accomplish.
Though they’re best friends, Pine and Hardy both end up separately meeting Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a single workaholic that bears a striking resemblance to every other rom-com character Witherspoon has played. Lauren decides to give both of the men a try. She feels bad about it at first, but her day-drunk friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) convinces her it’s for the good of women everywhere, thus setting the love triangle in motion.
Oh yeah, and Heinrich wants to kill the two spies. But more on that later. Maybe. If the movie feels like it.
“This Means War” plays like an even worse version of the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie film “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Simon Kinberg wrote both of the movies. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that, like “Smith,” “War” plays like some kind of buffet of ideas and subplots that are thrown against the wall in the hopes one or two good things might stick. To the film’s credit, there are a couple of scenes that are genuinely entertaining – so long as the plot is ignored.
The main plot is the love triangle between Lauren and the two spies, but every now and then the film returns to Heinrich, who literally does nothing but leer at the camera. Yes, the two plots merge at the end, but by that point the film is so firmly entrenched as a romantic comedy that it doesn’t even matter. Even the question of whom Lauren will choose becomes moot after a while. It’s clear early on which of the two is the best fit for her, but because this is a silly movie with few redeeming qualities, that doesn’t mean that’s the man she will pick.
Director McG, who was last seen screwing up a “Terminator” movie, tries to let his leads’ natural abilities shine through, but the ham-fisted script strangles everything in its path like a Burmese python. Watching Hardy, a big, rough-looking actor who next appears as the villain Bane in this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” talk about love and feelings is like watching Woody Allen talk about self-confidence. Witherspoon is her normal cheery rom-com self, and Pine’s natural charisma shines through at times, but these moments are wasted with the lazy writing and direction.
“This Means War” is harmless enough and tries to be the perfect mix of action and romance – a date film everyone will love. While some parts are enjoyable, the sum is such a smorgasbord of bad ideas and abandoned subplots that without much warning at all it just ends.
Grade: 2 out of 4
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content -including references, some violence and -action, and for language
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy
Studio: 20th Century Fox