CATEGORIES Movie NewsDespite all appearances to the contrary, "This Means War" is not McG's declaration of hostility against innocent moviegoers (presumably as revenge for all those cracks we've made about his nickname). After all, it only features one crotch shot joke.
No, instead, "This Means War" is a Reese Witherspoon vehicle just in time for Valentine's Day weekend, about a pair of CIA agents and total BFFs (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who engage in a little mutually assured destruction over which one of them gets to date Witherspoon's character. What follows is all-out war; it's spy vs. spy as the two friends turn their unique skill set and company resources toward ruining the other's game.
And while Chris Pine vs. Tom Hardy may be the main event of "This Means War," there's no shortage of crucial matchups in the romantic comedy/spy movie. As a public service, we've broken them down, but the final decision is up to you.
Chris Pine vs. Tom Hardy: Pine's got the edge in the height department (6'1" to Hardy's 5'10"), but anyone who's seen "Bronson" knows that the new Captain Kirk wouldn't stand a chance against Hardy in a fistfight. But Pine's FDR (a name that is presented entirely without explanation) has the clear edge with the ladies -- he's got flight attendants showing up at his door for weekly "layovers," while Hardy's Tuck is a divorcee. When it comes to wooing Lauren, though, all bets are off.
The two deadly, government-trained killers use whatever weapons they have at their disposal, including an adorable grandma (Spider-Man's Aunt May!) for FDR, and for Tuck, his precocious 7-year-old son. But while both men are disturbingly comfortable committing B&E at their girlfriend's house and misappropriating CIA resources to get an edge in the dating game, Tuck at least shows some semblance of initial remorse. He is, however, British -- which, for some equally unexplained reason, is a potential deal-breaker.
Verdict: Can't tell you, It would be a spoiler
Chelsea Handler vs. Alcohol: In case you were unaware, Chelsea Handler likes to drink. So much so that it's an intrinsic part of her brand, like say, Dean Martin or Richard Burton. So it's safe to say this is another heavyweight battle, on par with Pine vs. Hardy. As Lauren's best friend Trish, Handler drinks or talks about drinking in just about every scene she's in: at home, at the bar, in a children's play area. And aside from being introduced on a shopping trip that involves stocking up on nothing but jugs of laundry detergent and white wine, Trish also keeps an emergency sippy cup full of vodka in her car. Forget Lauren and her competing suitors, this just might be the true love story of "This Means War."
Verdict: Chelsea Handler
"Sexy" Reese Witherspoon vs. "America's Sweetheart" Reese Witherspoon: One of McG's major talking points for "This Means War" is how he's taken America's Sweetheart Reese Witherspoon (sorry Sandra Bullock), from "cute" to "sexy." Which might make you think he transformed Reese into the second coming of Marilyn Monroe. In reality, it plays out like one of those "Spot the difference" games they put in the back of in-flight magazines. For those of you who like skipping ahead to the answer key: the perpetually-chipper blonde briefly shows up in lingerie, utters the phrase "sex tiebreaker"... and otherwise acts like an indecisive teenager. Instead, all the truly "racy" lines go to Chelsea Handler, who is apparently contractually obligated to make one reference to sex (or drinking: see above) for every three seconds of screen time.
Common Sense vs. Suspension of Disbelief: The former's necessary to survive in the world, the latter's necessary to survive movies like "This Means War." But common sense takes a serious beating here at the hands of McG and his screenwriters. Pine and Hardy's "super spies" repeatedly show zero comprehension of what the word "covert" means, and apparently there's little-to-no government oversight on wiretaps or other CIA actions (which would be hilarious if it wasn't also, y'know, kind of terrifying). But the moment that still has me scratching my head is when Reese's character goes ballistic at finding out that the two men she's simultaneously dating know one another, but is remarkably cavalier about said men also completely destroying two whole floors of an upscale restaurant.
Verdict: Suspension of disbelief (unanimous decision)
Romantic Comedy vs. Action Comedy: With its mix of action and, well, a different kind of action, "This Means War" aims to please both sexes, eyeing the same box office sweet spot that "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" nailed. That means fireworks that aren't just of the romantic variety, and a rather liberal interpretation of the old cliche "all's fair in love and war." And sure enough, "This Means War" features massive explosions, flipping SUVs, and enough incoherent action scenes to make Michael Bay jealous, along with enough scenes of attractive celebrities in various states of undress to make significant others jealous.
But each end of the mash-up really just helps gloss over the other side's deficiencies: an action-packed third act covers for a love triangle that's lacking in much chemistry or romance, while the guys' goofy one-upsmanship makes for a convenient distraction from a one-note B plot featuring your standard-issue European bad guy hell-bent on revenge. Either way, someone's going home unsatisfied.
Verdict: Split decision