film review: This Means War (2012)

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It’s Spy vs. Spy when Chris Pine and Tom Hardy find themselves fighting for the affections of Reese WitherspoonThis Means War. Apparently.

This Means War poster, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Reese WitherspoonActually that short summary does the film a little disservice, it makes it sound like a completely generic romantic comedy. It’s not entirely generic. It’s got a plot, I swear. They actually make something of the spy stuff… I should explain…

Franklin Delano Roosevelt “FDR” Foster* (Chris Pine) and Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy) are CIA agents tasked with finding an evil villain, Heinrich (played with aplomb by Til Schweiger). Sadly, for them, and us, they make a hames of their opening mission and find themselves on desk duty. And thus we don’t get to see a action thriller starring two of the hottest guys in new Hollywood. Shame.

However! That’s ok because what we do get is a kind of a romantic action comedy. I know it sounds odd but stay with me…

… Ok. I can’t quite work out a way to explain this and make it sound good. It’s a spy thriller / action / buddy cop comedy / romcom? Basically, this movie shouldn’t work. And it probably won’t work for a lot of people. It worked for me because I was in the mood and I was expecting nothing. The name McG has become synonymous with a certain special type of crapness and this isn’t it.

What it is, is complete popcorn, and I like popcorn. It’s a bit of a laugh for an evening where you want to eat a lot of sweets and drink a lot of fizzy pop. It’s difficult to say that it’s a good film, it’s not really, but there’s enough going on to keep it from being boring. The action is decent, you know, for a romantic comedy, and the laughs are… well… it’s funny for a spy thriller? And, as I mentioned earlier, the plot is slightly more complex than your average girl-meets-boy romcom.

Don’t worry, it’s not actually complex or anything. It’s just that, unusually, there is a plot to be had.

The main only reason, that this rather random mesh of genres hangs together at all is because the leads are so damn likeable. I’ll admit (and have admitted, more than once) that I’m a big fan of Chris Pine, it’s true. But Witherspoon and Hardy also turn on the charm as needed and keep this ridiculous train rolling to its not-so-surprising conclusion.

For once it seems that if you just throw three attractive people together on the screen, you can make a decent movie. You just need to make sure that the three attractive people you get can act. Forgetting to check if attractive people can act is mistake often made in romantic comedies. Also in comedies, romances and action films for that matter. And horror films, 80% of horror films. Luckily McG didn’t trip up here.

Actually, I did turn on my brain for a little while with this film. It got me wondering, who’s going to replace Reese Witherspoon when she gets too old to play these kind of roles?

I’m sure people were already wondering why those two would be fighting over her affections. For the record, Pine and Hardy are both only a few years younger than her, 31, 34 and 35 respectively. So it’s not that strange, it’s just that she’s been on the scene for a long time and they’re relatively new. That’s beside the point though, thing is no young version of Reese Witherspoon out there at the moment. By that I mean an actress in her mid 20s who’s funny, clean cut and can play naive and innocent. Not one that I could think of anyway. Emma Stone is probably as close as you get but she always plays sharper than Witherspoon did.

I’d be interested to know if you’ve any suggestions. Maybe Amada Seyfried could give comedy another go…?

Anyway, back to This Means War.

I don’t really want to recommend this film, because… it’s kind of a waste of time. In my eyes though, it was an enjoyable waste of time and on the night I was glad I’d seen it. Of course that day I’d also seen a 150 long min film about a young girls guilt over causing a bus accident and a Franco/Belgian production about an escaped mental patient who thinks she’s a fairy… so I really needed popcorn.

Let’s leave it at this – If you’re in desperate need of some fluff and an hour and a half of looking at attractive people, go and see This Means War. You could do much worse.


* = no, the movie does not explain the name.

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