February 18, 2012 by staff
Reese Witherspoon, This Means War, the romantic comedy imposter starring Reese Witherspoon, is a puzzle from start to finish.
There’s no romance and little comedy in this McG-directed mess: it’s a bad sign when we look to his Charlie’s Angels as a masterpiece in comparison.
Two guys are fighting over a girl, that much I took away from the film, shot right here in Vancouver. A pair of hot, virile CIA agents, Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) fall in love with the same woman, Lauren (Witherspoon), after Lauren’s friend puts an R-rated profile on an online dating site. A few questions right off the bat: why would a hot CIA agent need to find a date online? Lauren apologizes for the sleazy profile, but clearly, he answered the ad, so that’s what he’s into, right? And what’s with the dorky names?
FDR is a smooth lady-killer; Tuck is a sensitive weekend dad, when he’s not throwing guys off rooftops. It starts out being about how great Lauren is, but quickly turns into a “whose is bigger” contest: both men agree to pursue her, though by “gentleman’s agreement” they agree not to sleep with her.
Instead of trusting their own inherent charms and Lauren’s good sense, each man assembles his own crack team and wastes the CIA L.A. division’s precious resources by tailing, bugging and surveilling Lauren. They notice that she likes Gustav Klimt and shelter dogs, and plan their dates accordingly. Because Lauren was a gymnast in high school, Tuck arranges for a private trapeze session: he hangs upside down and tells her when to jump, circus-style. (Last time I checked, they didn’t teach trapeze in high school. Or in CIA training.)
There is an irrelevant side plot about a German baddie, which really only serves to quench the director’s appetite for quick edits and unengaging action sequences.
Lauren’s so conflicted. She calls her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler, struggling within the confines of a PG-13 movie) routinely to ask for advice. But Trish is just in it because she needs a reason to fill her kids’ sippy cups with vodka and escape from her chunk of a husband for an hour or two. “Don’t choose the better guy; choose the guy who’ll make you the better girl,” she says sagely, in what is probably the film’s longest line.
So what happens beyond the happily-ever-after, when the spy team isn’t there to anticipate Lauren’s every move or plant pithy pickup lines in Mr. Right’s earpiece? She’s left with a stud who’s a real dud.
Witherspoon recently had to choose between Mr. Reliable and Mr. Playful in How Do You Know. But at least Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd sported shades of grey, whereas Tuck and FDR don’t change one iota, unless you count FDR’s inexplicable new appetite for Leo and Kate in Titanic.
More puzzling plot points: Angela Bassett has a role as the boys’ crusty CIA boss, who grounds them (shades of The Other Guys), and then completely disappears halfway through the movie. The other female role belongs to Tuck’s estranged wife, who bore a child by him but apparently was dim enough to believe he was a travel agent for all those years, cuts, bruises, and bullet-wounds notwithstanding.
At first I thought they were brothers, but one of them is English. They both talk about providing great-grandchildren for Nana, so, brothers-inlaw? (A sexual revelation late in the film kills that theory.) Either way, they are the best of friends, and would take a bullet for each other.
That’s what we’re told, anyway. All three characters are so hell-bent on looking chic in wardrobe (slim-fit shirts, skintight minis) that they forget to interact with one another. There isn’t a trace of romance nor bromance to be found anywhere. And if you don’t believe the buddy bond, you can’t buy the movie.
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