Once scheduled to open on Valentine’s Day, but at the last minute hastily shuffled a few days down the release calendar (presumably to prevent so many break-ups it could have conceivably threatened the propagation of our species), This Means War is the most dire and odious romantic comedy in years. A notable feat considering the dregs of the genre.
In this gleaming, shitty bauble populated by expensive gadgets and sociopaths (in that order) Reese Witherspoon plays some sort of kitchenware product-testing expert, hyperactively married to her lame career in one of those horrible, only-in-the-movies Type A cliches that require us to stupidly believe somebody who looks like Reese Witherspoon can’t find a date.
Up-and-comers Chris Pine (better known as Captain Kirk) and Tom Hardy (who quite unmemorably played Captain Picard’s evil clone in the woebegotten Star Trek: Nemesis, thereby making this movie some weird meta-project for Trekkies) co-star as rival CIA agents and best buds, suddenly competing for Witherspoon’s affections.
These two really should be spending their time more wisely, like maybe tracking down Til Schwieger’s vaguely defined, ideology-deficient terrorist, who has just arrived in Los Angeles seeking vengeance after our two heroes casually murdered his brother, taking out what looks like shit-ton of innocent bystanders in the process.
But instead, most of the movie revolves around our nation’s chilling surveillance techniques used so that these two closet cases can spy on each other during dates. Hardy looks about half the size that he did in last year’s Warrior, and he’s all trembling, tattoos, bad teeth and the mawkish brand of British insecurity that seems to play so well in American romantic comedies.
In contrast, Pine is the swaggering alpha dog, clubbing and womanizing while living in a Sharper Image catalog bachelor pad complete with a swimming pool in the ceiling, boasting no redeeming human qualities whatsoever.
One almost doesn’t want to blame Witherspoon, a quite wonderful actress, who, at the ripe old age of 35, presumably understands that her Hollywood days are already numbered. Witherspoon’s hapless character, free of any agency, sits around drinking Chardonnay and taking terrible advice from the odious Chelsea Handler, here vomiting massive chunks of her vile E! talk-show schtick in one of those unfortunate, blunt-talking best-friend roles typically reserved for gay dudes.
The haggard, spectacularly unpleasant Handler spends the movie barking stuff like “vagina” and “penile reduction.” The only time I laughed during This Means War was when Chris Pine mistook her for an elderly man—though an aging drag queen would have probably been more appropriate.
So to sum up where we are so far: The labored “comedy” in this picture involves a heartless bitch callously deceiving two dudes at once, dating them simultaneously—while the guys both secretly spy, videotape and klutzily attempt to sabotage each other’s attempts to fuck her. Hilarious.
Then, every once in a while, Chelsea Handler stops the movie to give a lecture about how men’s hands are an indication of their penis size.
Poor Angela Bassett is reduced to checking in on the boys every now and again, clucking her tongue while ruefully remembering that she got stuck in this same nothing-administrator role a few months ago in Green Lantern . I hate to say it but, the way movies are going, this wonderful performer should probably look into playing the sassy black judge on some crap television procedural that my mom’s friends would watch.
It’s hard to know where to begin when discussing a middle-aged adult male who still insists on being called “McG,” but this glib ad-man has been responsible for everything from the Charlie’s Angels movies to that Terminator prequel nobody asked for. I have no idea how he keeps getting hired, as his body of work is uniformly loathsome. This Means War is all shiny surfaces, product-placements and ineptly staged, bloodless acts of CGI mayhem that kill dozens of civilians.
The script (by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg) is obviously so old that a crucial scene takes place in that long-lost relic called a video store, but McG and company can’t be bothered to build a set replicating this already forgotten American cultural artifact. Instead, they just position Witherspoon and Pine in the midst of a big-box store, conveniently stocked only with titles from the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox. I wished they’d kept the camera rolling for when Witherspoon tried to rent a movie from a place that only sells them.
Sure, it’s a little detail, but one that demonstrates just how little respect This Means War has for the audience. This movie thinks you are stupid. I was rooting for the terrorist.
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy