Okay kids, I need to preface this review with the disclaimer that I am not, nor have I ever been a girly-girl in the sense that I am a rom-com fan, even less so a rom-com-action fan. Even with that said, I have my moments. I did buy Love Actually on DVD and still enjoy watching it, and the rom-coms are getting more clever and improving all the time. I can let it go, I can turn off the snarky film reviewer and enjoy something just to enjoy it. That being said, this is no Amelie. While this wasn’t unwatchable, I have no desire to see it again…ever. If you like these kind of movies this film may be for you, and if that’s the case you might want to stop reading now, ’cause the diplomacy is over. Alternately, if you like Chris Pine and/or Tom Hardy, please don’t see this movie, it may completely ruin the both of them for you.
As romantic comedies, rom-coms, or more appropriately romactiondies go, This Means War fell right in line. It was predictable to say the least. This movie followed the rom-com formula to a T. It’s only true redeeming quality was that it had everyone’s sweetheart, Reese Witherspoon and two of my current favorite actors, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine in it, which is probably the only reason I said it wasn’t unwatchable. If I’m honest, there was very little chemistry to be had between the three actors. Individually I have enjoyed all of them, Reese in…Fear (okay, admittedly it took me a while to find a film I really, really liked Reese in, but I like her and believe she has chops). If I wanted to really come clean I would admit that I really enjoyed Legally Blonde as well, and if admission that doesn’t give me some credibility to review this film, I don’t know what does. I discovered my love for Tom Hardy in a character far removed from This Mean’s War‘s safe and sensitive Tuck; Freddie in 2009’s The Take. Chris Pine stole my heart as James Tiberius Kirk in J.J.Abrams’ Star Trek. All of them amazing performances, so why this? And why now at what I perceive to be the height of Hardy and Pine’s careers and Witherspoon can snatch up roles like this in her sleep? Maybe it was the draw of working together and that the concept really wasn’t all that bad. The spy vs. spy appeals to me, and done more effectively, it would have been fun to watch.
But then McG, yes, McG got a hold of it. Admittedly, McG has made some excellent career choices and has been behind some of the most successful TV shows, including on of my favorites, Supernatural….but as a producer. Directing a movie is a different game and I am just not a fan of his work. Nor am I a fan of his commentary. As much as I didn’t want to, I rewatched the film with McG commenting on every single second of the film. So much so that you almost never hear whats going on to get a frame of reference. One note, McG doesn’t even seem to be a fan of his own directing as he spends a lot of the time saying what he could have done better or wished he had done here or wanted to have been able to do with the actors there. So, maybe I’m not the only one who noticed the lack of chemistry and muddled storyline. It was, in essence some of the most vapid commentary ever, but at least it wasn’t a bunch of patting himself on the back.
This Means War begins with Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) on a mission to take down evil in the world while romancing exotic women. They are there to take down bad guy, Heinrich (really?), who is supposed to be a threat throughout the film, but only appears again at the end, a gross underuse of Til Schweiger. The only real indication the two men are spies throughout the film is the tactics they use to woo Reese’s character and compete with one another. We meet Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), which I just realized was the character’s name, as a product tester a la Consumer Reports. We are meant to see her as a successful single woman who can make decisions as to whether a product is a winner or loser at the drop of a hat, but in her love life she is lost. Shortly we are shown the truth of her situation when her ex-boyfriend, played by Warren Christie, shows up with his new fiancee, catching her while she is boyfriendless. Predictably she mentions her own boyfriend who doesn’t exist to counteract the perceived humiliation that a single woman in her thirties should feel.
Lauren then meets Tuck through online dating and hits it off with him on their first date. Very shortly after, FDR is looking for a lonely girl in a video store and lo and behold, runs into Lauren. She exerts a level of maturity and savvy in her meeting with FDR, seeing through him immediately, that doesn’t appear any other time in the film. This is quite a shame, and could have given the film hope. FDR is the womanizing, stewardess seducing playboy we are meant to be slightly aggravated by, but also drawn to. Tuck is the gentle, sensitive yet strong man that we can feel safe with. Quickly the two men start competing for Lauren, and between spying on her with video and audio surveillance, voyeuristically watching one another’s dates, paintball fights and private art showings we are supposed to ignore the fact that neither man is being himself, and at some point they both disgustingly turn having sex with our protagonist into a competition. The predictable storyline of boy meets girl meets boy, boys realize they are competing, boys really start competing in spy vs. spy fashion with all the technology available in modern times (and still not as exciting as the cartoon shorts), one boy wins in the end.
My true issue with this film is ultimately I was hoping against hope that Lauren didn’t pick either guy. That for once, finding out not one, but both men have been lying and then competing to have sex with her, would be enough for the girl to walk away from both. Lauren could find herself secure being thirty-something and single, especially after that experience. I would even buy her ex realizing he wanted to be with her after all once he saw her with FDR and the two of them getting back together. But to allow her to choose either Tuck or FDR is so insulting. Neither proved their love for her in any sort of genuine way, but both showed how little value she held for them beyond a reason to try to best one another. This was not to be, Lauren does in fact choose one of the men and in the end it doesn’t really matter which one.
I almost forgot…Chelsea Handler. I like Chelsea, she is a great author and very funny lady; a cynical bitch after my own heart. Her show on network TV is enough to make me change my opinion of her (based on books I enjoyed mind you), but her portrayal of best friend, Trish (in what universe is Chelsea Handler made to play someone named Trish?) is just fine. What I take issue with is possibly the most disgusting scene I have ever been made to watch, definitely the most disturbing sex scene I have been forced to watch between Trish and her husband. It involves lots of body hair, sweat and Cheetos, need I say more?
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I still adore all of the actors and wish more than anything they could work together to bring a believable love story to the big screen, but it just isn’t meant to be.
There is hope in the special features. You already know my foray into the director’s commentary, but the alternate endings are another story, kind of. As this and the trailer for Act of Valor seemed to be the most enjoyable parts of the DVD, I won’t ruin it for you. Though at least one of them is funnier than anything else that occurs in the actual film, the other leaves us wondering where their story would have gone, just a few more minutes would have been better.
THIS MEANS WAR Blu-ray Combo Pack Special Features (out on May 22)
• Alternate Endings w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG
– Warehouse Alternate Ending
– Alternate Ending #1
– Alternate Ending #2
• Bachelorette Party
• Uncensored Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG
– Trish & Lauren Chat / Shooting Range
– Jonas’ Funeral
– Post Pizza
– Visiting Joe
– Lauren Freaking Out
• Alternative Opening Concept (Previz w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG)
• Audio Commentary by Director McG (standard and extended versions)
• Theatrical Trailer
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