The basic appeal that is meant to be found in This Means War is obvious. It’s a romantic comedy that panders to both male and female demographics. We have Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) courting two handsome men, Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) and there’s the reveal that these two are actually spies who use a myriad of gadgets, guns and cars to get the job done.
Tuck and FDR both meet Lauren and instantly decide to court her, so much so that when they discover that the other is interested in her, they decide to blow millions of dollars of CIA hardware in competing to see who can win her over.
This Means War feels less like a movie and more like what a studio executive thinks a movie is. In trying to tie in so many themes and genres to appeal to a large audience, it somehow manages to appeal to absolutely no one.
The characters are at the root of This Means War’s failure. The award winning Reese Witherspoon’s character is little more than a macguffin to drive the plot and conflict of the film, with so little real characterization that there’s no explanation behind the appeal she seems to have for Tuck and FDR. While Tuck and FDR are better characterized, their characters still lack any true depth or examination.
It’s a clear sign of failure when a filmmaker simply has to tell the audience that two characters have romantic feelings for one. It’s an even bigger failure when these characters then risk their own jobs and lives to be together, when there’s no real chemistry there.
The plot leaves much to be desired. The most obvious issue is that a good portion of the movie revolves around FDR and Tuck spying on Lauren. They set up hidden cameras in her apartment, follow her with drones and track her every movement. While it’s not supposed to be a serious movie, it still comes across as incredibly creepy, especially considering how nonchalant they are about doing so.
Of course, the villain of the action portion of the film is an anonymously evil man with a vague Eastern European sounding accent which just adds to the film’s sense of unaware cliche’.
Everything in the plot of This Means War has not only been done before, but done bigger and better by those who actually understand what they’re doing.
The script feels dated and awkward, which isn’t surprising considering it was co-written by Simon Kinberg. Kinberg is best known for writing such forgettable films as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Jumper. The action isn’t much better. Over the top yet simultaneously bland, it’s no surprise that This Means War was directed by the same man who directed Charlie’s Angels and Terminator Salvation, a man who goes by the pseudonym McG.
While the cinematography is at times reasonably well put together and Chelsea Handler who plays Lauren’s sister Trish delivers a few clever lines, This Means War is still irredeemably bad. It overuses tropes but lacks any sense of self awareness. It tries for widespread appeal but lacks any whatsoever. It is clearly a weak attempt at pulling in a few million at the box office and doesn’t even try to disguise this fact.
This Means War isn’t even really a movie, just a product meant to be consumed and forgotten. It exemplifies every criticism thrown at modern cinema. While you could potentially do worse, it would be a difficult task.
Photo © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox