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This Means War

The severe problem with This Means War isn't the fact that it's highly predictable; it's the reason why it's highly predictable. You see, the film has a horribly narrow-minded, black-and-white view of what men and women want from each other in relationships. I saw everything coming in This Means War, not because I knew how things usually unfold in this type of movie, but worse, because its detestably sexist views on romantic dynamics made it incredibly easy to anticipate every dim-witted word and action on the characters' parts. Add to that the fact that it's got very few laughs, and that the action sequences are few and poorly put-together, and you've got a prime example of a good cast wasted on a deeply mediocre film.

FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are supposed to be secret agents, except that it seems like any time they go on any mission, they make a mess out of everything and their cover gets blown. So, they're "punished" by getting assigned to boring office work. The early dialogue between both dudes helpfully clues us into the fact that FDR is a ladies' man while Tuck has a hard time meeting women. The latter seems to catch a break when he gets on an online dating site through which he meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), one of those good-looking, wholesome and hard-working women who are only single in the movies. Tuck and Lauren go on a first date in which I didn't see any sparks fly, but the film apparently thinks otherwise, so at that point, I'm thinking "Fine, I'll go along with it, as long as we see some solid chemistry later on." The date ends on a positive note, with Lauren saying she's heading off to "rent a movie," which immediately sparked my curiosity, because this isn't something we'd usually hear the stereotypical "single girl" in a romcom say. Of course, it's just a contrivance to have Lauren enter a video store where she happens to meet FDR, who isn't aware that this is the girl his buddy just went out with, and of course, he immediately starts working all of his charms on her. Things get complicated once the two guys realize they're both dating the same girl and they decide to keep doing it without letting her know the two guys know each other, until she makes a decision as to who she wants to be with.

If you've seen the trailer, you already know that each guy starts exploiting his access to spy technology in order to surveil Lauren and to sabotage her dates with the other guy. It's a shame, though, that if you've seen the trailer you've basically seen everything the two guys do with said technology, so you're already aware of how depressingly uncreative and unfunny it is. One guy causes the sprinklers to go off in the house while Lauren is kissing the other guy. One guy causes Lauren's paintball gun to go off and hit the other guy in the balls. One guy shoots the other guy with a dart in order to get him to fall asleep during a date. Not a single laugh, not an ounce of originality or excitement. The lack of excitement is of particular importance to you fans of action movies who saw the title and are hoping maybe there's a subplot in which the two guys, in their roles as agents, get to kick a lot of ass and engage in fun fight or shoot-out sequences - you'll be sorely disappointed. Most of the action on the film happens in the opening sequence, which is as annoying and poorly-edited an action sequence as they come. There's a totally useless subplot involving a bad guy whom the guys are supposed to be tracking down, but it never materializes into anything of interest.

Of course, seeing as the film chooses to eschew the action and focus more on the love triangle, you'd figure the romantic dynamics would offer something substantial, or at the very least, an iota of humor, but that's largely not the case in This Means War. This film is another in the long list of Hollywood romantic comedies that feature female characters with dastardly reprehensible views on love and relationships, and to make matters worse, that makes Lauren nothing but a ridiculously predictable automaton. At one point, when she feels frustrated and she feels that she needs to decide which guy to be with, she suddenly sees the light and declares that she's gonna do "what any rational woman would do" in this situation. At that point, I knew exactly what Lauren was going to say next, not because it has any ring of truth to it (which it doesn't), not even because it's predictable in the context of a romantic comedy, but because the film had already painted her as a caricature who's been designed to say and do the things that Hollywood knows its audiences want to hear women say and do in films, regardless of how reprehensible they may be. Oh, and obviously, Lauren is never held accountable (by her two suitors or by the film) for dating two guys at once. If you think Lauren sounds bad enough on her own, I haven't even talked about her obligatory sex-crazed best friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler, not nearly as funny here as she is on the small screen). We've seen this "best friend" in romantic comedies before, but rarely are they as unfunny, useless and screechingly annoying as Trish.

There are plenty of movies out there that have similar flaws in terms of storytelling and character development, yet I've still ended up recommending them because the script has a decent amount of one-liners that have kept me laughing and/or engaged. But the dialogue in This Means War is incredibly flat. The moments of reprieve from said flatness are very few: there's a scene in which the banter related to Internet abbreviations (like "LMFAO") made me at least laugh (though not my ass off), and in the scene during which FDR and Lauren meet at the video store, the two have a funny exchange regarding Alfred Hitchcock's filmography. Come to think of it, these two moments of reprieve I just mentioned are courtesy of Chris Pine, who is easily much better and much more charming than the film's other two leads. Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon look as though they're in it strictly for the paychecks. Chelsea Handler does nothing other than look constipated while delivering dialogue that is either mean-spirited or sexually charged, but never humorous.

This Means War is a weak cinematic entry because it falls flat on its face as an action movie, and stumbles quite poorly as a romantic comedy. In this day and age of great special effects, I'm surprised that the makers of a film about two spies couldn't even think of more interesting and original things aside from surveillance cameras and the other cheap gags that we get here. But what really hurts the movie is that it handles the romantic aspect without any comedic bite and that the film's detestably misguided notions on relationships eventually make it depressingly predictable. Oh, and in case you're hoping to at least feel a sense of mystery or suspense as to "Who will she choose?", you should know that her choice is completely obvious from the beginning, seeing as during the first 20 minutes, there's a subplot involving one of the guys which totally telegraphs the film's resolution. And while I could certainly at least give This Means War some credit for having the girl choose the guy with whom she obviously had more chemistry, I think that'd be overstating things just a bit, considering that the romantic chemistry in this movie is beyond feeble.

Added by lotr23
6 years ago on 18 February 2012 04:25