For those of you who haven’t noticed, 2012 is a leap year. Traditionally that means that with all matters of a romantic persuasion, the tables have been turned. Men are supposed to be on the receiving end for a change. Screw criminally overpriced roses and Lindt. It’s all cacti and beer flavoured chocolates now.
Pandering to this sensibility is This Means War, a romantic comedy that just so happens to also be filled with explosions, car chases and frat boy humour.
BFF’s Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are two of the top black ops agents that the “CIA” has to offer. Restricted to mind numbing desk duty after a botched operation left a terrorist dead and his vengeful Eurotrash brother (Til Schweiger) on the loose, mild-mannered Tuck decides to get his love life in order. He meets perky product tester Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) and they hit it off immediately, but the defecation hits the oscillation when it turns out that playboy FDR also has her in his sights.
Soon it’s “invasion of privacy laws be damned!”, as the bromatic duo use the hi-tech arsenals at their disposal to compete for Lauren’s affections, often to raucous results.
Did you notice the ” ” I put on CIA in the above paragraph? That’s because just like most elements of this film, the intelligence agency is about as far removed from real life as possible. They work out of a Men In Black style office and apparently get salaries bigger than most South American countries’ GDP.
Lauren is also vintage unrealistic Witherspoonian rom-com territory. Very pretty and successful, yet mysteriously unable to find a man until her raunchy friend Trish – played to hilariously droll effect by comedienne Chelsea Handler – signs her up to a dating website. And then as soon as she does, she just haphazardly stumbles across two chiseled guys that most other women would trade in their wombs for.
Clearly, implausibility is the order of the day here when it comes to Simon “Mr and Mrs Smith” Kinberg’s screenplay. But luckily the film has a cast that just oozes charm, and for the most part they manage to drag your attention away from the script’s several pitfalls.
For FDR, Pine brings to bear all the cocky playboy charisma he displayed in Star Trek, whereas Hardy plays up his pouty-mouthed, pretty boy looks to full effect as a super sweet guy who’s just looking to settle down. For the talented Hardy this is a dramatic about-face from his previous more dramatically intense roles, and I think it’s safe to say that he will now add that most saccharine of adjectives to the long list already prefixing his name.
The film stumbles quite a bit for the first act though, as we go from a manic shootout on a Hong Kong rooftop to the series of unlikely coincidences that kick off this love triangle. But once the film hits its stride and the boys start engaging in all out tactical c*ck-blocking, it becomes a surprisingly fun ride. The laughs and action come quick and fast as their one-upmanship escalates. All of this mayhem interspersed by the acerbic Chelsea Handler rattling off relationship advice as foul mouthed as it is hilarious.
Just like he did with Charlie’s Angels, director McG gives us a world so glossy and filled with shining perfect teeth, that I may have suffered a mild sunburn in the cinema. Everybody is beautiful and toned, and live in apartments/houses straight out of an episode of Top Billing. This stylized fairy-tale approach works very well for the whimsical rom-com sections, however when it comes to the pure action bits, his directorial shortcomings are on full display. He shoots these sequences like a small-minded Michael Bay, never quite going for grandiose but still trying to imbue more flash than the scene really needs.
In the end, the action commits that most cardinal of sins of being neither good nor bad, but rather just forgettable. This is never more apparent than in the film’s finale, where the woefully underutilized Til Schweiger engages Tuck and FDR in the very same car chase sequence that you’ve seen in pretty much every action film of the 1990’s that starred Lorenzo Lamas.
And just like it’s limp-wristed action counterpart, the resolution of the love triangle also comes across as far too neat and easy. I conducted a quick survey after the film, and 1 out of every 1 wives agree that the predictably safe “lets make everybody happy” ending was a bit of a cheap letdown.
It really is a pity about the film’s bookends though, as everything in between was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. It also contained enough hi-tech spy vs spy antics for the boys and enough soppy romanticism to keep a grin firmly plastered on most girl”s faces (as a quick sideways glance at my wife testified). Admittedly, had this been any other cast, this movie would not have had much to recommend it on, but as such if you’re looking for a lighthearted escapist date film that both sexes can enjoy, then give it a shot.
Last Updated: February 16, 2012