Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Means War - Movie Review

After watching This Means War, I feel like there was an attempt to manipulate me.  "Why?  How?", I'm sure you're saying.  It's mainly because this movie lures you in with a good and attractive cast; a cast that is much better than the material in this movie.  If this movie would have featured a bunch of no-names or less likable actors, I would have walked out after 20 minutes.  Like imagine this movie starring Kate Hudson, Dane Cook and Jason Biggs.  Sounds pretty awful now, right?

I've seen a few people say that it's nice to see a movie with good looking people that can act, but that doesn't give the movie a pass for being shitty.  This Means War is one of those movies were it doesn't take much to poke holes in nearly everything that happens.  This review is likely to be filled with spoilers, so be warned if you read on from here...

The movie opens with a scene of FDR (Chris Pine and why he's called FDR I don't think is ever really explained), and Tuck (Tom Hardy) entering a fancy club on a mission to stop some guy.  Why? We don't have a clue and we don't care either.  I don't even remember what the guy's name was.   Almost immediately, a gun fight erupts and all hell breaks loose.  Then again, if you see Captain Kirk and Bane walk into a room, you can probably guess that shit is about to go down.  What does this have to do with the plot though?  Again, I have no idea.

The next scene abruptly switches to Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) just doing her job.  I know they were trying to establish her character, but there's no real need to do that yet.  You've barely even introduced the two leads.  Neither one of them knows Lauren yet, so her introduction at his point seemed forced and out of place.

Back to Kirk and Bane.  You find that they are both spies and best friends.  It's not really clear who they work for (CIA, I think), but they appear to have been friends for a long time.  Bane/Tuck has a son and ex-wife that he appears to still have thing for.  Kirk/FDR, by default, is the ladies man that can meet chicks anywhere (oh and we'll get to that).  Tuck doesn't date much and decides to try online dating.  Doesn't it seem pretty risky for a spy to have an online dating profile?  Wouldn't that be totally against the spy rules or something?  At the same time, Lauren puts up a online dating profile (actually put up by her friend).  The two talk on the website and meet for a date.

They go on their date and appear to hit it off.  However, Lauren decides to cut the date short to go rent a movie.  She tells him this on the date.  If you were on a date that you thought was going well and then she announces she's leaving to go rent a movie, would you think you were on good ground with her?  Anyway, Lauren heads to a video store that could not exist in reality.  It looked like a friggin upscale department store, like the kind that would charge you $10 to rent a movie like this.  Who even goes to video stores anymore?  Well, in a totally amazing coincidence, who do you think Lauren meets at the video store?  Captain Kirk!  They actually don't hit it off though, but Kirk not being able to accept defeat, stalks her until she agrees to date him.  Both of these guys use their spy skills to stalk Lauren.  It's so cute and romantic!

Oh, speaking of implausible things, both spies live in lofts that appear to be million dollar homes, and yet their cover jobs (travel agent and cruise ship captain) would likely not generate the income to afford these places.  Plus, Tuck is presumably paying alimony and child support, but nobody finds it odd that his job as a 'travel agent' allows him to afford an amazing loft in Southern California (again, I'm assuming they are in SoCal).  Being a spy pays really well, I guess.

Anyway, FDR and Tuck find out they are both dating Lauren.  Initially, FDR says he'll back off, but then makes some back-handed, passive-aggressive comment about how it wouldn't be fair, which of course Tuck takes exception to and also as a challenge.  This is why movies like this bug me.  You have two guys that establish themselves as best friends, but then don't act at all like best friends the second a member of the opposite sex is in the middle.  If FDR had just kept his mouth shut or backed off (he even says, 'hey you met her first'), none of this would have happened, but then there'd be no movie.

Neither person ends up appearing to be very mature.  You both really like this girl you just started dating that much?  Enough that you're willing to risk your friendship?  The fact that one of these guys is a clear ladies man when the other doesn't date much makes it even harder for me to accept.

Anyway, all kinds or ridiculous stuff happens from that point. I could continue picking apart this movie, but what's the point?  I'm sure you already know how I feel about the movie by now.

That's not to say that everything is bad.  I actually liked the cast and I think they did the most with the material, but they deserve better than this.  Chelsea Handler is brought in for some comedy relief and I'll say that she was actually kind of funny even though I'm not a big fan of hers.  There were a few moments that made me laugh, but I couldn't quote you a line.

I can see women liking this more.  I'm sure it's the ultimate female fantasy to have two successful, hunky guys fighting over her.  Reese Witherspoon is cute, but she's not the kind of actress that's generally a draw for guys.  They ramp up the humor and action to appeal to males, but it doesn't work very well.

McG doesn't do anything to break out from the his reputation of being a hack director.  Like many things he's been involved with, it's all style and no substance.  This movie is like a Barbie or Ken doll hanging out a club that's only concerned with how good they look, but cares nothing about being interesting or aware of how vapid they are.  If you tried talking to them, you might laugh a few times at a lame joke they say, but it's courtesy laugh because you want to get in their pants.  After you're done talking to them, you can't remember anything meaningful that they said, because they didn't.  That's This Means War.

There were three writers for this and it feels like it with how many disparate plot elements are in this movie.  There's a plot thread involving the dangerous guy from the opening scene that pops up randomly throughout the movie and it just felt thrown in.  I guess they felt like they needed a villain, but there's really nothing menacing about him.  I don't even know what he's after or why he's still in the movie after the opening scene.  It's all very nonsensical.  The writers (Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, Marcus Gautesesn) have written stuff like Just Go With It, X-Men: The Last Stand, xXx: State of the Union, Jumper and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, so we aren't talking about writers with a stellar track record here.

Oh and the ending of the movie is a total cop-out!

I wrote the word 'charm' at the bottom of my notes (yes, I do take notes sometimes).  This Means War is a bad movie that tried to get by on charm.  It has a likable cast and there are some funny moments, but the story is a train wreck if you take a moment to think about it.  Nothing I've said here is going to stop people from seeing it this weekend though.  If you're looking for a date movie, I suppose this is your best option (I'd rather you see this over The Vow), but I'd save it for a rental.

2 (out of 5) Death Stars.


  1. Nice review. All of these leads try their hardest, but the script just lets them down too much with terrible jokes and very ugly feeling underneath this premise. Check out my review when you get the chance.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree with your review as well. It's interesting how most of us critic-types are coming to the same conclusions about the film.

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