A film review by Craig J. Koban February 25, 2012
THIS MEANS WAR
2012, PG-13, 97 mins.
2012, PG-13, 97 mins.
Lauren: Reese Witherspoon /
FDR Foster: Chris Pine / Tuck: Tom Hardy /
Heinrich: Til Schweiger / Collins: Angela Bassett /
Trish: Chelsea Handler
MEANS WAR is a unholy type of incoherently stupid, synthetically made, and
insipidly rendered triple threat dud: it’s a romance film that neither has any tangible romance
or chemistry between all of the leads involved; it’s a wacky and madcap comedy
that contains not a scintilla of laughs; and finally it’s an action-thriller
that lacks any semblance of tension and has sequences so tediously
histrionic and inelegantly edited that they numb you into weeping
submission. The script for
THIS MEANS WAR has apparently been making the rounds for well over a
decade, but the final result here speaks volumes.
There’s a reason so many Hollywood leading men turned down this
film over the years and it's because it feels so horribly antiquated and stunningly witless.
MEANS WAR also commits one unpardonable sin when it comes to romcoms: it
made me hate all of its selfish and mean-spirited characters.
The lone female and two male characters trapped within this
film’s nauseatingly infantile love triangle are, at face value, quite
intolerable. Here’s a film
where adults well into their thirties go to deplorable levels to win over
each other’s loving affections. The
two men are CIA agents that engage in a battle of wits as to which one
will have what it takes to win over the woman and, in the process, use the
full surveillance arsenal of the Federal Government to spy on the
woman’s every single move. My…how
romantic! The woman may seem like a hapless victim, but she too
does not fare much better: she decides to cruelly date both men
behind their respective backs (she thinks that they are both oblivious to each other) and
procrastinates as to which one she should choose.
Her end-game is to sleep with both and then make up her mind.
this is someone’s idea of romance for a Valentine’s Day movie release,
then I want no part of it. I
would barely accept this type of behavior in young high school
adolescents, but in this film’s phony universe it’s committed by
adults, which is supposed to make it uproarious.
Kirk-redux, Chris Pine, plays FDR (hey, just like the former
President…how riotous!) and his BFF Tuck (Tom Hardy) are two of the most
skilled and top-ranking elite agents of the CIA that have a history of
completing missions in the least clandestine manner possible, much to the
consternation of their boss (played by Angela Bassett, a long way from her
Oscar winning glory here). These
guys are so close and do so much together that, to any suspicious eye,
they could be gay lovers, but never mind.
Tuck is a recently divorced dad that is looking for love and –
wouldn’t you know it – FDR begins to contemplate finding a soul mate
as well. They both decide to
try their luck on an online dating service, because in this film’s
twisted and false reality guys that look like Pine and Hardy have a really
difficult time scoring with babes.
does manage to secure a date with a fellow lady that uses the same site,
Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a career minded efficiency product analyzer for
a Consumer Reports-like group (gee, I wonder if that woefully specific job
title will factor latter in the film during a convenient time?).
Lauren, alas, suffers the same fate as Tuck and FDR: she’s
limitlessly attractive, but is so dang unlucky with members of the
opposite sex. Uh-huh. The
first date that Tuck and Lauren go on is a success, but on her way home
she brushes paths with FDR. After
some flirtatious banter between them and a few other awkward
meet-and-greets, Lauren decides to go out with FDR, despite the fact that
she really likes Tuck and wants to commit to him.
Within no time, Tuck and FDR realize that they are dating the same
woman, so they form a series of special ground rules to see who will
prevail and win her heart. Lauren,
at the same time, has the thorny dilemma of deciding which one of her
suitors will be a better lay.
nearly vomiting in my mouth just thinking about this movie’s cockamamie
and vile premise. It’s just
so borderline creepy that it gets in the way of me growing to like these
people. Consider the actions
of Tuck and FDR, who amazingly are able to commandeer the CIA’s finest
without their boss ever knowing - and are able to use multi-million dollar
surveillance equipment to invade Lauren’s privacy 24/7 and, in turn,
hopefully sabotage the other’s courtship efforts.
There’s just something wholly unsavory about grown men
eavesdropping like Peeping Toms at a woman without her consent, not to
mention that it’s a gross and illegal invasion of Lauren’s privacy.
the script could have made Lauren an unfortunate casualty of such heinous
actions here, but it decides to make her a pitiless figure as well. Lauren takes advice from her friend (played to rather
obnoxiously self-indulgent levels by Chelsea Handler) that’s one of
those age-old movie gal friends who seems to exist in this film to provide
unethical guidance to Lauren and crack endless scatological quips for the
amusement of the viewers. Seriously,
I do think that Handler and Witherspoon are smart individuals in real life
with good heads on their shoulders, but am I really expected to buy them
playing these shrill and conniving women?
Do real women of this age give each other advice to date
multiple men at the same time and have sex with both to see which one is
chemistry between Witherspoon, Hardy, and Pine is so empty that they all
should have had “vacant” signs hanging off of their foreheads in
scenes with one another. Oddly
enough, Pine seems to bring – dare I say it – a William Shatner-ian
eye for goofy mischief here, but even he’s too good of an actor for this
film’s dumb shenanigans. Witherspoon
– remember that she’s an Oscar winning actress! – pathetically plays
the object of the men’s collective affection as if she had the mindset
of an overly anxious and sexually unsure 14-year-old, which hints at more
than a bit of sexism. Tom
Hardy (one of our finest emerging acting talents) was such a brute force
of nature in films like WARRIOR and
BRONSON that he seems horrendously miscast playing a romantic suitor that
has to engage in zany physical sight gags and scenes of sitcom
contrivances; Hardy is an explosively feral and empowered performer, but
his skillet does not lend itself to this type of material.
Ultimately, I just wished for a terrorist to show up and threaten to take the very lives of these characters and make good on his goal…oh…wait…the film does desperately insert such a character into the love triangle madness in the form of an arms dealer (INGLOURIOUS BASTERD’s Til Schweiger), but he only shows up as a manner of bringing FDR, Tuck, and Lauren together to confront their indiscretions, which culminates in matters altogether artificial and moronic. THIS MEANS WAR was directed with maximum big screen soullessness by McG, who made me detest him for his earlier – and equally soulless – CHARLIE’S ANGELS films, but then made me reconsider his worth with the decent WE ARE MARSHALL and the terrible underrated TERMINATOR: SALVATION. Let’s just say that with THIS MEANS WAR McG has returned to his roots by making a film that has no reason for existing other that to humiliate its three main stars at every turn.
How romantic, indeed.