This Means War is way better than the trailer

This Means War – 2012

Directed by McG
Starring Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett
Screenplay by Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg

The weakest part of any screenplay is when one uses words for exposition when actions could do it much more effectively.  Lines like “This is a covert exercise” and “You know I’d take a bullet for you” don’t really prove anything other than a lack of imagination of those telling the story.  In the worst omen possible, this movie starts off with these types of nuggets.

Reese Witherspoon plays as Lauren Scott, who, the film makes obvious, is on a dry run.  This is something she can portray in her sleep.  Chelsea Handler, as her best friend, Trish, sets her up on a web site.  Then in a circumstance that only could happen in a movie, she meets both of the protagonists, CIA Agents, FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) within 5 minutes.  Stupid thing is, she was on a “successful” date with Tuck just 5 minutes before deciding to rent a movie, by herself.  Whereupon, she meets and is pursued by FDR.  This is not exactly a “meet cure.”  More of a meet forced.

The commercials for this film made it seem as though things were going peachy between Lauren and both of her suitors, and they relentlessly went after her and each other in an antagonistic way.  The movie takes a bit more leisurely way to the destination, thankfully.  Tuck is portrayed as an old-fashioned romantic, and FDR is more of a smooth player, and both fit within that role.

Things get ridiculous quick enough, and the use of CIA resources and staff seems silly, to be honest.  In the midst of it, they have a “mission” which requires that they occasionally go out and kill a few guys with Russian accents once in a while.  Having Trish along as Lauren’s motivator gives a pleasant and believable enough contrast to her situation.  It’s during one of their discussions that the film has its most amusing line,  while discussing the drawbacks to each character.  Lauren looks to Tish and says that Tuck, well, is “British.”

The action sequences are what one might expect from the director of the Charlie’s Angels movies and the unduly maligned Terminator Salvation.  Pine and Hardy are quite believable in the physical demands of their roles.  Hardy, in particular, has a hilarious interchange with a group of kid paintball players.  While most fans of these actors are looking forward to their next features, Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises and Pine in Star Trek 2, they are worth the price of admission here.

For her part, Witherspoon is not well served by the commercials for This Means War.  She has a unique, believable beauty which is relatable, but hardly the type of woman who would stand as a sex symbol for two men of the world.  When the film moves beyond its clunky beginnings, telling us instead of showing us, she is able to express herself as the well-rounded actress that she is.

Angela Basset, unfortunately, is wasted.  Easily the best actor of the entire bunch, she is made into a one-dimensional grouch here.  She might as well have been played by a mannequin.  One will have to watch Boyz In Tha Hood, City of Hope, What’s Love Got to do with It and Akeelah and the Bee to cleanse their palate of her obnoxious character here.

The trailers in no way do this film justice.  Aside from the bad lines here and there and the completely miscast Angela Basset, the film works, in a date night sort of way.  My wife liked this film, but I liked it more.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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