This Means War is one of the most abrasive, frustrating, mind-numbingly terrible films of 2012. It presents itself as a romantic comedy action flick, but it fails on all fronts and winds up a blubbing mess “highlighted” by foolish characters, awkward lightning and set design, and Chelsea Handler’s nauseating attempts at humour.
Of course, this is a McG project. That means that every scene is coated in ridiculous amounts of musical intervention and it means that the action scenes are incoherent messes. That the movie misses the romantic mark and the comedic mark with gross consistency makes matters even worse, transferring this from a middling, deafening actioner into a thoughtless pain of a flick.
This Means War centres on two friends: CIA agent FDR (Chris Pine) and CIA agent Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy). After a mission goes awry in Hong Kong, the pair is put on desk duty by their boss (Angela Bassett). Tuck is a hopeless romantic, so he signs up for a dating service online and meets Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). He is instantly smitten and she is “really, really beautiful.”
Things get complicated when FDR runs into Lauren in a video store and falls for her, not knowing that she’s dating Tuck. Lauren eventually winds up dating both guys at once, all while her idiotic friend (Handler) cheers her on to find some sort of resolution. Naturally, FDR and Tuck get into a bit of a rivalry over the girl and start using multi-million dollar CIA technology to sabotage dates and spy on Lauren to get the upper hand. How charming!
McG’s flick is based on the premise that people will check their brains at the door and simply bask in the glow of the three attractive lead actors. Other aspects, like an interesting story and compelling characters, are simply incidental to what winds up being an insulting, demeaning assault on the intelligence of even the most half-witted viewer.
Hollywood has long struggled with the romantic comedy, unfortunately, and most of them feel like exercises in hating women. This Means War is no exception as it turns Lauren into a prize to be fought over by two beefy men. What’s more, she gets to “enjoy the attention” and play the field while her grumpy, lewd friend tells her to enjoy it. A Gloria Steinem line serves as the icing on this rancid cake.
This Means War isn’t any more ethical to its male characters, however, diminishing them into thickset cut-outs. They are Neanderthals incapable of actual friendship, sleeping with anything that attracts them without regard for anything sensible and champing at the bit to compete over a cute blonde. They get to use piles of technology to sabotage each other into submission, compelling the blonde into picking one of them as though she’s little more than a meat prize at a county fare.
If you are capable of turning your brain off, you may well be dazzled by the nonsense of This Means War. But I beseech you, dear reader, to ask for more from films and especially from romantic comedies. This film, in no uncertain terms, is an unfortunate, indolent, dated, careless, dreary exercise in everything that’s wrong with Hollywood’s rom-com ambitions.
The DVD release includes audio commentary with McG, some deleted scenes, and two alternate endings that find Lauren ending up with different door prizes.