This Means War
Grounded from operations for their inability to carry out a covert mission (the covert part, anyway), buddy agents FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) wind up inadvertently dating the same woman, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a product development executive whose interfering friend (Chelsea Handler) puts up a profile for her on a dating site.
Once the pair find out they’re in competition, they pull out all the stops. They use CIA resources to research and record Lauren’s comings, goings, likes, dislikes, to delve into her past and find out what she’s looking for in a partner, and where their efforts are failing, with the resulting implication that it takes a CIA back-up team to make either of these characters appear a well-rounded, emotionally stable human being.
It aspires to be all things to all viewers, and consequently falls short of being any one thing.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition, and THIS MEANS WAR has ambition in handfuls. It aspires to be all things to all viewers, and consequently falls short of being any one thing. Decked out like a buddy comedy, with enough car chases and explosions for an action movie, yet at its core a rom-com plot, it handles all three aspects roughly, unable to combine them effectively. Still, I want to applaud it for trying.
An unusual amount of energy is devoted to establishing the friendship between Tuck and FDR, and unfortunately neither character reaches that same level of chemistry with Lauren. Possibly the writers should have thrown an additional wrinkle into the plot by creating a proper three-way love triangle, which might have helped bring the film into the 21st century, sprinkled as it is with weirdly time-stamped pop culture references (Sade? Titanic? Paranoia of online dating? ). A meet-cute in a video store almost implies Hollywood can’t make a film that references Netflix, a far more likely evening’s entertainment for career-woman Lauren.
Pine, Hardy, and Witherspoon are all highly talented, and at moments they gleam, but they never quite glow; the emotionally unwieldy script won’t allow it. Handler has some funny lines, but others come off flat and acidic. A convenient subplot about Russian spies goes mostly to waste. Despite my personal conviction that there aren’t enough romantic comedies with guns, THIS MEANS WAR isn’t a genre game-changer, but it’s an honest effort.
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