This Means War

28 Feb

Title: This Means War
Year: 2012
Director: McG
Writers: Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Mr. Dowling and Marcus Gautesen
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Laura Vandervoort, Angela Bassett, Jenny Slate
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language
Runtime: 97 min
IMDb Rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Metacritic: 31

Wow, talk about a lot of squandered talent. You have three incredibly likable and charming stars; Reese Witherspoon, the Academy Award winner with the lovely smile and girl-next-door charm, as well as Tom Hardy who’s just on the brink of super-stardom (and who’ll achieve it this summer with The Dark Knight Rises, obviously), and Chris Pine, who’s the guy that starred as Captain Kirk in the recent Star Trek reboot and will do again next summer when the sequel hits theaters. So yeah, we have a trio of highly likable stars, but the result is pretty bad and totally wastes their talents.

The main problem, for me, is the same problem that the film’s marketing team had, and that caused the studio to back down from the Valentine’s Day weekend release date it had originally planned (which was smart because The Vow took total control of that weekend); and that’s the fact that this film is neither too action-y, nor too romantic, nor too funny, and it just doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. The film revolves around a couple of skilled CIA operatives who are partners and best friends until they fall in love with the same girl. So now they’re pitted against each other so they’ll use all their spy expertise and crazy-ass gadgets in order to win over the girl.

You get why this was once thought as a solid Valentine’s Day option. Two attractive guys women can swoon over fighting over a girl women actually like because she’s charming would attract the female crowd, and the fact that the film features action set pieces with spy gadgets would take care of the male demographic. This was potentially the one film both men and women would like to check out for the romantic holiday. But it didn’t pay off at all, because the film is just so clumsy. The director is McG, who did both Charlie’s Angels movies, but those at least had the self-awareness of how campy they were and played off it, while this one thinks it’s actually cool and tries to be hip and just fails so, so badly at it.

I mean, if you think about the stuff that’s going on in this film for just a second you’ll understand how ludicrous it all is. Firstly, you have two guys blatantly lying to a girl just to be with her, you have those same two guys wasting valuable resources of the nation in order to spy on her, which in turn is a huge violation of privacy, and they plain-out put all of their lives at risk while doing so. If McG had wanted this to be a parody of these kind of films, mocking both the spy and the rom-c0m clichés, this would have all worked out splendidly, but instead we a film that’s pretty idiotic for most of its running time and that’s never once funny at all. There’s a scene here in which Chris Pine wrestles a small dog, people, that’s the sort of crap we have to deal with when watching This Means War.

Of course there’s also the matter that, as they’re wasting resources and manpower trying to woo Ms. Witherspoon, who hasn’t done anything close to great since winning her Oscar, the two guys are also forgetting to pay attention to the actual case they’re supposed to be working on. Well, the film pays absolutely no mind to that for most of its running time, but then it suddenly brings it up out of nowhere with a huge sense of urgency that had nothing we had seen previously on which to base itself, only so that it can use it to bring forth the big climatic action set piece towards the end of the film and try to justify itself. And boy does it never work, this film squanders the talents of three really charming stars that are actually game for everything the film asks of them, but the material they’re given is totally dumb and never once resembling anything close to funny.

This Means War essentially has two intruding creeps (“but at least they’re handsome”, would say the film’s marketing team) spying on a girl they both want to seduce while trying to foil each other’s sexual advances with said girl, all of which is done with taxpayer’s money. This whole thing about secret operatives and their love lives just isn’t all that awesome anymore; I mean, yes, Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a massive success (and had its good parts), but let’s leave this new subgenre alone, Knight and Day may have been decent enough (barely, I gave it a B-), but most of these films are more like this one and Killers (the unfortunate film with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl I gave a D+). This is a film that doesn’t have a single ounce of wit, and spends quite a bit of time throwing around cringe-worthy double entendre’s, and even the action sequences are painfully edited to the point of utter incoherence. Avoid this film if you’re smart, no matter how likable the leads are, this film achieves not one of its many dumb ambitions.

Grade: D+

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