Review: "This Means War"

If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you took two charismatic young stars in the prime of their careers and threw them into a movie that made absolutely no attempt to provide them with something to work with, then this is the film for you. A decent-enough concept that never gets off the ground, This Means War stands as an exercise in lazy futility with no hint of ambition.

FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are lifelong friends who work together as CIA agents. While on desk assignment after an operation goes wrong, Tuck, a hopeless romantic, enrolls in an online dating site and gets setup with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a market researcher with a painful relationship history. Shortly after their successful first date, Lauren runs into FDR (no explanation is ever given for his ridiculous name) and strikes up a playful conversation with the consummate lady’s man, eventually settling on a date. When FDR and Tuck discover that they’re dating the same woman, their friendship is put to the test as they engage in an all-out war to win Lauren over. But while the two friends put everything on the line for one woman, an old nemesis arrives in town looking for revenge.

Whatever there is to like about This Means War hinges entirely upon the inherent appeal of Pine and Hardy. In their brief careers, Hardy has probably shown more diversity but both have proven themselves to be impressive on-screen talents (if not bankable stars). Here their combined likability and stellar chemistry are all that stands between This Means War turning into an abject disaster instead of the slightly above average action comedy that it is. Indeed, these two do their parts and then some…and then some more. They had me laughing during scenes that shouldn’t have been funny and paying much closer attention than This Means Warreally deserved. I’m actually somewhat angry that their interactions were wasted on this film instead of occupying space in a more worthwhile endeavor.

Virtually every aspect of This Means War outside of the male leads falls somewhere between barely-passable and downright embarrassing. Witherspoon falls into the former category; there’s nothing diametrically wrong with her performance, it’s just very one-dimensional and unimportant. Lauren is less a character and more a vessel for the furthering of the meager plot. Chelsea Handler, meanwhile, goes far beyond “one-dimensional and unimportant”; her involvement with This Means War could be described as nothing less than soul-crushingly painful. If she’d received five more minutes of screen time, I’m not sure I would have made it through the movie.

More importantly, though, the plot, action, and dialogue contained within This Means Warare laughably ineffective and amateurish. Director McG made a name for himself with TV shows like The OC and more recently Chuck and This Means War proves that old habits die hard. I like Chuck and I’ve always found it to be a fun show but what works on TV doesn’t always (or usually) work in a movie. Unfortunately, this movie plays out like a giant, excessively long episode of Chuck that never aspires to do anything new, fresh, or even overly entertaining. At times it can be fun but only when Pine and Hardy are both on screen and even then, only in short doses. So much more could have been done with what McG had to work with but in many ways it never seems like he had any desire to create a film that had any semblance of cinematic value.