Director: Joseph McGinty "McG" Nichol
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: Overbrook Entertainment
The head-on collision of high concept, high octane action comedy and romantic comedy may have worked in movies like True Lies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Charlie’s Angels but a new one, This Means War, crashes and thuds noisily. Slick, fast moving and rotten to the core, at least the movie has the pouty, photogenic charisma of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy going for it.
Playing best-pal top level CIA guys who (for purposes of the plot mechanics, anyway) set out to cruelly one-up each other in order to win the heart of consumer magazine product testing honcho Reese Witherspoon, the talented Pine and Hardy work overtime to make their jokey chemistry look and sound convincing.
Their cow-eyed bromance clicks, though. In fact, it’s way more convincing than their hot pursuit of chirpy Witherspoon, who scrunches up her face a lot to show us that her supposedly smart, successful character has been crushed by a recent romantic bust-up. In no time flat, both CIA dudes start violating every privacy and ethics code in the book, merrily spending taxpayer dollars on high tech cameras, wiretaps, and personal surveillance to track their blonde quarry’s every move (“Patriot Act,” quips Pine’s cynical spook when a subordinate questions him).
What they’re supposed to be doing, of course, is hunting a deadly bad guy (Til Schweiger), whose high stake scam kicks off the movie in James Bond high-style, cliff-hanging derring-do. But what does national security mean when love's in bloom? Although McG keeps the farcical car chases, explosions and tumbling SUV sequences coming at warp speed, the 14-year-old screenplay credited to Timothy Dowling Simon Kinberg smells musty and is riddled with gargantuan potholes.
A big romantic scene set in an upscale video rental store? In 2002, seriously? And what about the rom com cliché of having Witherspoon’s character – a grown woman who constantly acts like a brain-challenged teenager – join the online dating scene and take romantic advice from a highly improbable bestie; a foul-mouthed, boozy, married harpy played by (an unflatteringly photographed) Chelsea Handler?
In the end, Witherspoon must choose between the two men and, of course, the audience is supposed to leave the theater happy that she chooses the lying, manipulative and despicable – and the lesser actor. Those looking for logic or consistency will leave feeling empty. Those out for a cheap, quick romantic/action fix will get exactly what they deserve.
About the Author
Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interviews and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.