This Means War

Cast:
Reese Witherspoon as Lauren
Chris Pine as FDR Foster
Tom Hardy as Tuck
Til Schweiger as Heinrich
Chelsea Handler as Trish
John Paul Ruttan as Joe
Abigail Spencer as Katie (as Abigail Leigh Spencer)
Angela Bassett as Collins
Rosemary Harris as Nana Foster
George Touliatos as Grandpa Foster
Clint Carleton as Jonas
Warren Christie as Steve
Leela Savasta as Kelly
Natassia Malthe as Xenia
Laura Vandervoort as Britta

Directed by McG

Summary:
“This Means War” makes a decent date movie, but it doesn’t have much to offer beyond the charm of Witherspoon, Hardy, and Pine.

Story:
FDR Foster and Tuck are two of the world’s top CIA operatives who also happen to be as close as brothers. After a botched operation in Hong Kong, they find themselves sidelined by their bosses, and it’s during this down time that Tuck realizes that he wants to settle down and have a serious relationship with a woman. Having been burned by a divorce in the past and out of the dating game for a long time, he resorts to online dating. There he meets Lauren.

Lauren similarly finds herself in a romantic slump. Uptight and a bit too picky about men, she allows her friend Trish to set up an online dating account for her, and when she meets Tuck, he seems perfect. However, through sheer coincidence, she also meets FDR. He comes on strong and initially turns Lauren off, but in the spirit of open-mindedness about men, she agrees to go out on a date with him.

Soon enough Lauren finds herself in love with both men and soon enough Tuck and FDR discover that Lauren is dating them both. They agree to a contest to see who can win the heart of Lauren, and using all of their CIA capabilities, they conduct a covert battle for her affections, though it may cost them their friendship.

“This Means War” is rated PG-13 for some sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language.

What Worked:
I think “This Means War” does what it sets out to do. It’s a light romantic action comedy that makes a decent date movie. It’s not complex. It’s not high art. It won’t win any awards. Women will like it and men will find it tolerable. It will make a solid amount of money over Valentine’s Day then be forgotten after it hits DVD. It’s the fast food of the movie world, but sometimes that’s what you’re looking for at the theater.

“This Means War” survives almost solely on the charm of its cast. Reese Witherspoon is funny and cute as Lauren. Chris Pine is very much like his Captain Kirk character as FDR Foster. He’s charming and funny. Then Tom Hardy is handsome and vulnerable as Tuck. Hardy is about the only one doing something new as he shows he has some talent at comedy, too.

“This Means War” is at its best when it pulls the CIA element into the film. You see the guys bugging Lauren’s house, doing background checks on her, and more simply to get to know her better. So those moments where they try to get in her head in a vain attempt to win her over are the most funny, mainly because they almost all backfire. “True Lies” did it better, but it’s a good example of what they were trying to do here.

What Didn’t Work:
First of all, “This Means War” is pretty predictable. That’s even more the case if you’ve seen the trailers. You can pretty much guess every step of this movie long before it happens on the screen. So that somewhat takes away from enjoyment of it.

It also seems to have trouble with tone. This is kind of embodied in Chelsea Handler as Trish. Witherspoon plays everything as very light and cute, then Handler comes along and plays everything raunchy like she’s in a Judd Apatow film. It’s no surprise that this movie nearly got an R rating from Handler’s brief dialogue.

Overall, the real problem with “This Means War” is that it’s simply average. It’s not really bad, but it never rises above being average either. I think I laughed maybe once or twice during this movie. I think it could have been improved if Lauren was a bit more flawed. She’s so nice and even keeled. It would have been funnier if, when these guys started spying on her, they could have seen more of the ‘real Lauren.’ And both Foster and Tuck could have been more interesting if they had more character flaws, too. They’re both rather perfect as even Lauren says in the film. In short, it needed something more than was offered. I think these actors were capable of doing way more with their characters than they did.

The Bottom Line:
If you need a good date movie, “This Means War” is a safe bet. It’s mildly amusing and Witherspoon, Hardy, and Pine are fun to watch, but don’t expect more from it. You might find this one to be more of a renter than something to spend serious cash on in the theater.

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