Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, John Paul Ruttan, Valin Shinyei, Angela Bassett, David Koechner
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: PG13 (Violence and Sexual References)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: http://www.thismeanswarmovie.com/
Opening Day: 23 February 2012
Synopsis: Two lifelong best friends, dedicated to their lives as CIA spies, wage an epic war against one another after they both fall in love with the same unsuspecting woman, an indecisive product tester forced to make the toughest choice of her life.
McG must have watched one too many cartoons when he was a kid- how else will you explain his obsessive love for them? After venturing into more mature territory with the inspirational sports drama 'We Are Marshall' and the sci-fi thriller ‘Terminator: Salvation’, the director is back making live-action cartoons in the vein of his 'Charlie's Angels' duo-logy, and 'This Means War' sees him at his most indulgent. Indeed, there is nothing that can be taken seriously about this loud, preposterous and utterly logic-less action comedy that requires that its audience to check every brain cell at the door just so they can watch two handsome hunky CIA agents go at each other to win the affections of the same girl.
That is the only catch of this lazily plotted movie from Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg- the former an actor turned writer who sadly demonstrates little of the subversive cleverness from his earlier 'Role Models' nor the broad but nonetheless inspired hilarity of 'Just Go With It'; and the latter an experienced hand at the genre (responsible for the studio's earlier hit 'Mr and Mrs Smith') enlisted to polish the banter and distract the audience from the glaring plot-holes. Neither writer tries hard enough, and without a solid well-grounded script to rein in McG's fluffy excesses, the result is a 'Smith' wannabe without the entertainment.
To be sure, a film like this is always going to be as good as its individual gags, and so to trick you into the theatre, the trailer showcases the best the film has to offer. Remember the one where Agent Tuck (Tom Hardy) shoots a dart right into Agent FDR’s (Chris Pine) neck so he falls fast asleep just before he is about to bed the girl Lauren (Reese Witherspoon)? Or the one where Lauren accidentally shoots a paintball at Tuck's crotch while attempting to discharge its triggering mechanism? Trust us, these individual sequences in the movie don’t go beyond what the trailer already shows, so you're not really missing anything more.
The banality of the rest of the movie is only made more apparent by the one-note characterisation. Tuck and FDR are both good-natured sensitive guys equally eligible, while Lauren is the pretty attractive girl with no luck at love. Then just to add in a shade of raunch because ‘Bridesmaids’ showed there was a place for girls to be talking dirty, Lauren has a perpetually horny best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) whose only purpose is to goad Lauren to have sex with Tuck and FDR. At no point do you care if Tuck or FDR get the girl, simply because either guy is just as shallowly drawn.
Ditto for the tired banter between Tuck and FDR, scripted without the wit nor the punch of Kinberg’s ‘Smith’ or ‘Sherlock Holmes’- in fact, the most memorable line is delivered by a fellow agent who tries politely to tell Tuck the night after FDR beds Lauren that the latter had ‘entered the premises’. Fortunately, there is genuine bromantic chemistry between the two actors Pine and Hardy, both of whom do their best with the trite material that doesn’t do justice to their heretofore-unknown sharp comedic timing.
Against their natural bromance, Reese Witherspoon ends up regrettably nondescript, giving as little as the script demands of her. That the romance between Lauren and Tuck or FDR doesn’t ring true is not entirely the actress’ fault however- for some inexplicable reason, the script has them falling in love over a private trapeze session at an amusement park and a private showcase of Gustav Klimt masterpieces at some warehouse. Granted that a suspension of belief is de rigueur for most movies, but the leap of logic this McG live-action cartoon demands is just too absurd.
And don’t get us started about the poorly conceived action sequences that are so badly choreographed it’s no wonder they are over before you know it. We’re not just talking about over-the-top, but absolutely head-scratching nonsense that turns the pair of CIA agents into superheroes who pretty much emerge unscathed- except for some cuts- from every supposed life-endangering situation. Even with the paucity of such sequences (we count only three in total), McG can’t even get the climax right- and a high-speed chase that ends on a dead-end freeway ramp is so laughably shot it goes in the running for the worst action sequence of the year.
Whether as action or as comedy, this mishmash of a buddy picture, spy thriller and rom-com fails in every regard. We can accept a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, but one that disregards every ounce of logic ultimately causes its audience to pay little attention to it as well. Like we said, it’s really another one of McG’s live-action cartoons- how else really can two spies use the full resources of the CIA to spy on a personal subject without anyone raising any alarm- and it is as juvenile as its titular claim that two guys fighting over one girl could really mean war.
(As ridiculous as it gets, this McG live-action cartoon with unfunny lines and terrible action wastes the great bromantic chemistry of its lead stars)
Review by Gabriel Chong