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This Means War - Movie Review

1 Star

With shades of an early ‘60’s-era romantic comedy that might have starred Rock Hudson and Doris Day, but with the cinematic intelligence of a five-year-old, This Means War does for the romantic comedy what Episode I did for the Star Wars franchise. It’s being billed as a “romantic thriller,” but it plays out more like a Valentine’s Day dud. This chaotic mess of a film is certainly as embarrassing to all involved in the production as to those of us who shelled out ten bucks to see it.

The blame begins with McG who scored big with the Charlie’s Angels reboots of the early ‘00s, but failed to find a connection to Terminator fans with his reboot of that franchise in 2009. Even with a star-studded cast featuring Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon, promising up-and-comer Tom Hardy, and one of Hollywood’s hottest hunks in Chris Pine, the director is incapable of squeezing anything resembling chemistry from his stars. And yes, much of the criticism certainly lies at the feet of the cast that also includes a misused Angela Bassett and Til Schweiger, who’s hardly convincing as a bad guy.

But the main culprit in this life-force draining waste of celluloid is the anemic script from writers Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg who, for whatever reason, thought penning an espionage thriller without much espionage and including a female love interest whose main criticism of her prospective mates is “small hands” and being “British,” was a good idea. Kinberg, who also wrote 2005’s somewhat enjoyable Mr. and Mrs. Smith, takes a big step backwards here.

One thing that does work however, is Chelsea Handler as Trish, the trashy, boozing, married BFF of bachelorette Lauren (Witherspoon), whose mission in life is to offer frank and explicit opinions on her single friend’s life, and to set Lauren up with an online dating service – which Tuck (Hardy) had also recently, and reluctantly, joined.

Sparks fly, but after saying their goodbyes, Lauren wanders into a DVD rental megastore (do those even still exist?), where, coincidentally, FDR (Pine) is looking to notch yet another romantic conquest. Unaware that Lauren had just met with his best bud and CIA partner Tuck, FDR eventually woos Lauren into his charming web of “won’t-take-no-for-an-answer” tactics.

Unable to believe her good fortune, Lauren has quickly gone from being hopelessly single to dating two gorgeous hunks. Meanwhile, Tuck and FDR, realizing that they’ve fallen for the same woman, embark on a battle of “may the best man win” in which every covert trick in the book of CIA spies is deployed, including illegal wire-tapping, GPS tracking, and any number of a dozen or so other illegal offenses that would not only have their jobs but also result in the privacy invasion scandal of the century. One even “borrows” a multi-million dollar pilotless drone to spy on the romantic advances of the other. Come on, we’re not that stupid.

Though it very well could be that because everything else is so bad, the film enjoys its only bright moments when Handler is on the screen. She’s the stock side-character playing one of those crazy friends we all have who does (and says) wacky, naughty things and lives vicariously through her dating friends. Handler steals nearly every scene she’s in, and is solely responsible for any positive marks this film might receive from critics and audiences.

The film slogs forward, switching back and forth between the illegal (and expensive) antics of each of our CIA agents in their battle to win the heart of love-torn Lauren. Wracked with guilt, but eventually convinced by Trish that the best way to make her decision about which man to settle with is to take a test drive, Lauren decides to sleep with each of them, but of course, the guys already know this since they’ve been watching her every move on gigantic video screens in CIA headquarters.

Meanwhile, so as to seem somewhat interested in being a spy thriller, there's a stupid thread about an unidentifiable Eastern European bad guy named Heinrich (Til Schweiger) who is out to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of our CIA spies. Ridiculousness ensues as Heinrich returns to the U.S. bringing an endless supply of machine guns and black-suited thugs. The showdown culminates in one of the most ridiculous endings for a film in quite some time.

Short on chemistry, absent of any believability (and no, it’s not a spoof), and nothing in the way of likeable characters, This Means War is a definite “skip” at the box office. Come to think of it, it’s not even a “wait to rent.”

{2jtab: Film Details}

This Means War - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for some sexual content (original rating).
: McG
: Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg
Cast: Reese Witherspoon; Tom Hardy; Chris Pine; Chelsea Handler; Angela Bassett
: Romance | Comedy
It's SPY against SPY.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Don't pick the better man, pick the man who makes you a better woman."
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date: February 17, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details yest available.

Synopsis: The world's deadliest CIA operatives are inseparable partners and best friends until they fall for the same woman. Having once helped bring down entire enemy nations, they are now employing their incomparable skills and an endless array of high-tech gadgetry against their greatest nemesis ever - each other.

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