It is incredibly rare that I would watch a romantic-comedy; rarer still that I would watch ANYTHING starring Reese Witherspoon. The odds were defied yesterday, when I sat down to view This Means War. Why? Two actors: Chris Pine and Tom Hardy.
From a story by Timothy Dowling and Marcus Gautesen, and a screenplay by Dowling and Simon Kinberg, This Means War begins like a bog standard CIA/cop buddy flick. FDR Foster (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are in Hong Kong, trying to infiltrate an operation by German bad guy Heinrich (Til Schweiger). Even though they were supposed to keep things “low key” and covert, their actions make the headlines. “Grounded” by their superior, Collins (Angela Bassett), the best friends get some time on their hands to become social. Tuck, who is a divorced father, wants to find romance, so he posts a profile on an online dating site. Ladies man FDR is not so interested.
Where does Witherspoon come in? She plays Lauren, a product tester who “left everything behind to be with a man only to discover that he cheated on her.” (Yeah, like that’s new.) Thinking that Lauren should get out there and get laid, her best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) posts a profile of Lauren on the same site, and shazam, Tuck and Lauren are meeting for drinks. They feel an immediate connection. After the date, Lauren goes around the corner to rent a movie, and shazam again, she meets FDR. But rather than feeling a connection with him, she’s instantly repulsed by his confident and lady killer personality. I probably don’t need to go on. You know exactly what happens next, right? The two CIA agents spend the rest of the film, trying to woo and win Lauren’s affections, and they employ increasingly unethical/questionable tactics to do so. Who ends up with whom? By the end, I really didn’t care. (It also looks like it’s set itself up for a sequel. Thank goodness, it lost money at the box office.)
This Means War is kind of a mess. It wants to be a romantic comedy, but it also wants to be a macho, Bourneseque kind of thing, too. And although it’s an adequate rom-com – not original at all, but whatever – the spy stuff seems tacked on. As if the writers said, “well, these sappy women are going to drag their boyfriends/husbands to the film, let’s give them something too.” Um, no. It would have been better had they gone full on rom-com, because then you wouldn’t have felt so cheated. Not much action and the action that exists isn’t all that impressive. (I expected more slo-mo/wire work from director McG.)
Watching This Means War wasn’t a total waste of my 99 minutes. I’m an enormous fan of Hardy, and this is a side of him I’ve never seen before. The Tweety Bird-lipped actor came across as sweet, tender, and, well, normal. Get rid of the kid and the ex-wife, and he was downright datable. I’ve only really seen him playing psychotic/scary (The Take), cocky (Inception), really angry/resentful (Warrior, and Star Trek: Nemesis), and insane/violent (Bronson). This was a delightful change. That said, I hope he never does another rom-com. I really do prefer him as insane/violent/malevolent/psychotic.
Pine, who is probably best known as playing Capt. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot, is equally charming; charismatic. He has the most beautiful eyes. Sigh. Both actors played off of each other very well, and I would pay to see another project in which they co-star. Great chemistry. Just please not another rom-com. They got me to watch one. Won’t happen again.
Handler, who I still cannot believe is only one year younger than Witherspoon, has some of the funniest lines in the movie. She’s a standout.
Witherspoon is her typical perky, nervous self. And her jawline is still sharp enough to open rusty cans. I don’t know what it is about her, but she makes me want to stamp on anthills, and punch sleeping babies. If I never see her again, it will be too soon.
If you LIKE rom-coms, you will probably enjoy This Means War. Two hot leading men – although they never take off their shirts, so that will be a let down – and a cheerful, slightly flawed female who changes her clothes every five minutes. That means that you and your girlfriends can talk about her shoes and dresses. (Gag). For the really weak-minded, you will love the “sweet” montage involving Lauren, Tuck, and his flaxen-haired son (John Paul Ruttan) as they enjoy a day at Lauren’s workplace, destroying toy trucks and spraying each other with hoses. Laughs and fun, ladies. (Groan.)
If you do NOT like rom-coms, and would rather have bamboo shoved under your toenails, you will find this film predictable, eye-rolling, and, at times, unbelievable – I kept thinking, “How are they getting away with using CIA resources like that without sending up red flags?” That said, getting to watch Hardy’s lips and Pine’s eyes for an extended period of time lessened the torture. But only a bit. Really glad I didn’t pay to see this.
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