Review: “This Means War” Not Worth Fighting For

"This Means War" stars Reese Witherspoon as Lauren, a woman in a loveless rut whose sister (Chelsea Handler) creates for her an online dating profile. In short order Lauren's out with Tuck (Tom Hardy), a British dreamboat whose accent is as gorgeous as he is sweet. Moments after their first date, Lauren is apparently so emboldened by the experience, she parries like an old pro with FDR, an American dreamboat with bottomless blue eyes who tries to pick her up.

What Lauren doesn't know is that both Tuck and FDR are, in reality, CIA agents and best friends. So what happens when two bohunks, who happen to be trained spies, fall for the same girl? "This Means War," a film with a soul-deadening identity crisis, a limp affair that combines elements of spy thrillers, action films and romcoms, with three very talented and attractive actors to spin a joyless yarn. What McG, the director, manages to achieve is like the opposite of alchemy.

Tuck and FDR realize almost immediately that they've fallen for the same girl, and make an agreement that they'll let her choose which of them she wants to date--how magnanimous!--but they won't tell her they know each other--another smashing idea! And so our two heroes put the full force of the nation's preeminent intelligence agency to bear on wooing Lauren, while also tracking their rival's progress. Because, you know, a dozen junior CIA agents have nothing better to do.

You know how a lot of action films have a totally gratuitous "romantic" sub-plot that does nothing for the film (except distract from the explosions and the bullets) in a vain attempt to make the film palatable to women? "This Means War" turns the formula on its head, as interwoven through the courtship of Lauren is the thinnest, lamest, least interesting thread of international intrigue. Really has a movie villain been less engaging than Til Schweiger's Heinrich, a sneering German baddy with zero story. 

Deadening the action is the fact that FDR and Tuck are besties, so they never really go knives-out each, making the contest between them the film equivalent of an NFL pre-season game, with nobody really giving their best for fear of injury. When this script was first kicking around, it was compared to the classic Mad magazine feature "Spy vs. Spy," but that serial was entertaining because those nameless guys hated each other and threw down with a furious vengeance. Tuck and FDR? Not so much.

Witherspoon played a total butt-kicking badass in her breakout role in "Freeway," and followed that up with smart, edgy fare like "Election" and "American Psycho," but has since drifted toward "safer" films as she's aged. Yet she's not that old and she deserves far better than this, playing an object of desire being secretly fought over. However, with the sad state of things for women in Hollywood, you can forgive her for slumming--but what are Tom Hardy and Chris Pine doing? One is a card-carrying member of the Chris Nolan Cast Club, the other is best Starfleet Captain in more than 40 years—these guys don’t need "This Means War," and neither do you.

Now if Witherspoon and Pine had been enemy spies, and Hardy had been at the center of the love triangle, that might've been interesting.

"This Means War" opens in theaters nationwide Friday, February 17th

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