THIS MEANS WAR Review

Most of the time I can agree with critics, or at the very least understand where they are coming from. Most of the time I am even willing to defend the critics and their picks of non-mainstream films for the best of the year and academy award nominations, but I am also very much a fan of the mainstream. I enjoy the big budget summer flicks, I don't mind it every now and then when style overtakes substance as long as it is entertaining I'm good to go. I just have to like it, simple as that and I will have your back. I have to feel, in a way, defensive of director McG and his rapid style of filmmaking that more times than not does allow for substance to be thrown by the wayside, but that is not to say he hasn't tried. Just look at "We Are Marshall" or even "Terminator Salvation" where while these weren't great they strived to be a little more than you ever thought a McG production might try for. With "This Means War" the director is back to flashy, stylish action sequences and pretty stars with a film that oozes fun. Like his "Charlie's Angels" movies this is a refreshing jolt of a movie that is action packed from the opening sequence all the way until the last frame. It is bright, full of colors and though the storyline is rather improbable (and by that I mean completely ridiculous) it is just a farciacal piece of fantasy that plays upon the archetypal cliches that we all expect spies to be dashing, handsome guys who have plenty of time for relationships. The triple threat of Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy doesn't hurt either as each of them looks to be having great fun and not taking themselves too seriously. You shouldn't take the movie seriously either. Don't listen to the critics on this one and go have yourself a good time at the movies.

Tuck (Tom Hardy) and Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) keep
things fresh on their paintballing date.
One of the main complaints I heard about the film before going in was the fact many people couldn't tell whether this was a romantic comedy or an action flick. The first thing wrong with this issue is that it is even an issue at all. Why audiences have been brainwashed into thinking a film has to fit into a specific type of category doesn't make much sense but beyond that is the fact a film should be able to cross genre borders and become fun mash-ups that offer a little for each side of the couple that will likely be seeing this. It did take the marketing standpoint of being a romatically infused film for a Valentine's day crowd and there is no problem with that. I saw it with my wife and we both really enjoyed it. She isn't generally a fan of straight up action movies and I don't gravitate towards a film just for the action but it was nicely done here and the balance was handled better than I would have originally thought. Best of all it was funny as well. Consistently we were both laughing whether it be Chelsea Handler throwing in her little bits or the complications that naturally arise from one woman dating two men, never mind the fact the two men are best friends and spies. That is the set-up we have here in case you weren't sure. Reese Witherspoon is the cutie who somehow has had no luck with relationships and at the urging of her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) begins dating more. Lauren (Witherspoon) gets in over her head though when she begins seeing Tuck (Tom Hardy) after meeting on a dating website (yea right) and then runs into FDR (Chris Pine) in the video store where they hit it off (how convienent). It just so happens these two boys are super secret spies who work for the CIA (Angela Bassett) and are the best of friends.

Unbeknownst to Lauren FDR (Chris Pine) is best friends
with her new date Tuck.
There is also the subplot about some guy named Heinrich who is after the boys for killing his brother. This was certainly something that could have been handled better, but it could have been a lot worse as well. This thread plays just enough into the story that we forget about it during all the antics of FDR and Tuck competing for Laurens affections that when it does come back around to bite them in the ass it feels rather tacked on. I can't decide what else they could have done with it other than cut it. Still it serves as the motivation for the big action set piece at the end of the film where Heinrich again isn't really that essential to the plot, it could have been anyone chasing them and I guess that is why they made him the most stereotypical of villians. This doesn't really matter though as the real meat of the movie is given to the competition over Lauren. There is one scene inparticular where (in a kind of creepy way) Tuck and FDR each sneek into Lauren's house and collect notes of what she likes and what would make good dating spots. The single take and well choreographed motions of all involved was impressive and expretly crafted. It was a shining moment that hinted at what McG's imagination is certainly capable of. That he is not all explosions and car chases, that he actually has an interest in building character into his film by the way he shoots it. This was all the more evident due to how well his three lead actors played the roles as if they were all kind of in on the joke. Hardy is especially endearing and likeable as Tuck, a gentleman who just wants someone to share life with while Pine plays up his Captain Kirk persona as the smooth talking playboy just looking for a fun night. You may know where all of this is heading the moment each guy locks eyes with Lauren but there is fun in guessing who she will choose or if she will choose either after she learns their secrets. Most important though is the fact that no matter how ridiculous the movie gets it is consistently fun and engaging. Allowing us to leave logic at the door and be swept up in ideal fantasy.

Tuck and FDR meet for the first time in front of an
awkward Lauren.
I can understand a person who is fickle about their details and needing a film to be more logical than anything else not understanding this movie or liking it, but if you are that type of moviegoer you should have had no interest after seeing the first minute of the trailer. Otherwise, I really can't understand what you could possibly dislike about "This Means War". Yes, it has enough action for those guys that don't like to admit it was a chick flick and enough romance for any women who go into this thinking it is pure rom com. That isn't the point though, the point is overall it is a funny movie you can enjoy and never think about again. It won't change you as a person, it won't leave you thinking about it hours later. It is simply a fun way to spend two hours. Oscar winner Witherspoon has had a bit of bad luck at the box office lately with "How Do You Know" flopping in December of 2010 and the underrated "Water for Elephants" not living up to expectations last year. It is not that these are bad choices, but it might be a bad sign for her star power as the opening weekend for this wasn't all that impressive either. What I'm getting at is that despite the slump as of late Witherspoon is still a blessing to any film and she holds this one together. While Hardy and Pine should be equally comended for bringing a different flow of charisma to their roles it is Witherspoons Lauren who has to make us believe and understand why these guys who even go through the trouble. She does that in spades and it is to her charm that McG owes a debt of gratitude. His film is fun and he would have no doubt accomplished this same level of fun without such an actress in the lead role, but it may not have been as believable as this outlandish tale already is. Give it up for Reese and go have fun at "This Means War".