Take some exciting, although not realistic action sequences. Let simmer and slowly stir in some romance. Then add some sharp comic dialogue and writing. Cover and cook for 98 minutes and you have the recipe for the newest entry from director McG, This Means War.
“FDR” (Chris Pine) and “Tuck” (Tom Hardy) are CIA agents who open the film by failing to get their man, although they manage to retrieve some device they were sent to get. Upon return to their base of operations in Los Angeles, they’re benched by their boss “Collins” (Angela Bassett whose talents are wasted in a small, thankless role). FDR, a perennial bachelor suggests that its time for Tuck to stop mooning over his ex-wife and get back into the dating pool. He ends up checking out a computer dating website that just got a new profile for “Lauren” (Reese Witherspoon) who had no intention of trying computer dating. Lauren, who works in consumer product testing had her profile loaded to the website by her well-meaning friend “Trish” (Chelsea Handler).
Lauren and Tuck agree to meet and FDR insists on keeping overwatch on FDR, who is more of a BFF than Nicole Richie ever was to Paris Hilton, from a nearby video store. They arrange a signal for him to abort his mission and when he receives it, he starts “hunting” for a woman among the video store’s customers and soon scopes out a target for himself. Unfortunately for both he and his friend Tuck, FDR’s target turns out to be Lauren who’d stopped to get herself a video on her way home. Through perhaps the most contrived moment in the film, they end up agreeing to get together again.
But when Tuck and FDR learn that they are both in pursuit of the same woman, they pull out all the stops in order to monitor what each other is doing with Lauren. Given current technology, this provides a few interesting and humorous moments. Naturally both men find themselves increasing attracted to Lauren and this conflict is the center story here. The requisite secret agent backstory revolves around the bad guy they missed in the opening, although they managed to kill his brother. Obviously, he wants payback.
The test of an action film is the action sequences. Here, This Means War satisifes sometimes and disappoints sometimes. The test of romance need not be defined and here, the film is at its worst. But, the test of a comedy is simple. Do you laugh? This Means War had me laughing out loud in more than a few places. The best humorous moments of this make it far better than other recent romantic comedies and when you add in some satisfying action, the result is better than I had expected. It’s not brilliant, nothing that Witherspoon, Pine or Hardy will take much pride in, but “This Means War” will entertain its audience.
The best part of this movie is reserved for fans of Chelsea Handler, star of her own late-night talk-show on E! Entertainment. Handler also has a show about the goings-on back-stage at her weeknight program on E!, and also has a new sit-com based on her life that she co-stars in (she doesn’t play herself, someone else plays her and she plays her own older sister) on NBC. While the sitcom hasn’t won much favor with the critics, in This Means War, any fan of Handler’s talk-show will love the inside jokes that are to be found in her character’s speech and actions. Her dialogue might have come out of any of her monologues on her talk-show. Trish’s advice and counsel to Lauren in This Means War might well be from the next best-selling book we will get from Handler.