"This Means War"...on the audience's patience - The Monitor: Valley Life

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"This Means War"...on the audience's patience

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Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:19 pm, Fri Jun 14, 2013.

This Means War (2012)

Directed by McG

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy

“Oh my God - I’m Yoko!” Reese Witherspoon’s character, Lauren, exclaims as she realizes she has come between two best friends in this rolling cheeseball of a chick flick that happens to involve spies. February must be the month for secret agent movies that are written by a bunch of monkeys who are thrown into a room with scissors, paste, and a copy of Spy Escapades for Dummies. Every shenanigan in which our dueling rakes involve themselves has been covered in a sheen of cornball and reeks of tedium.


Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are partners in the CIA as well as longtime best friends. They have immaculate haircuts and Euro-styled suits that perfectly drape their chiseled frames as they chase bad guys through a Tokyo highrise soiree, effortlessly sliding across polished marble floors whilst shooting up the enemy. While Chris Pine performs some horrible CGI positioning in front of a helicopter on the rooftop, he lets the brother of the main criminal Henrich (Til Schweiger of Inglourious Basterds fame) fall to his death. When Heinrich reaches his brother’s body, he glances back up at our CIA agents with the patented “I will have my revenge” glower.


Back in Los Angeles, our heroes are chided by their superior played by Angela Bassett, who looks embarrassed to be in such a role. She “grounds” them due to the botched mission and they are reassigned to desk work, the worst punishment for such men about town. Their only respite is going to FDR’s grandmother’s house for a family gathering where they lament being 30 and still single. FDR has always been a womanizer, while Tuck’s secret life has led to a divorce from his wife and shallow relationship with his son, who thinks he is a wimpy travel agent. While the chemistry between these men is not quite realistic as best friends, certain homoerotic undertones suggest they might be better suited towards a more intimate relationship. “Can you imagine having that with a woman?” Tuck asks FDR, talking about their closeness. “No,” FDR replies. Enough said.


Now for our Yoko: entrepreneur Lauren, played by Reese Witherspoon. A former Southern girl who followed her previous relationship to Los Angeles before being surreptitiously dumped, she has thrown herself into work and has no time for serious dating. Her married friend Trish, played by Chelsea Handler in all her drunken, vulgar glory, wants to be helpful so she creates a randy profile for Lauren with the tagline “Come and Get It, Boys” on an online dating site. As Luck would have it, our romantic of the two agents, Tuck, has also logged on and asks her out. FDR agrees to play wingman and scopes out the scene from a local video store. After the date, Lauren goes to check out a movie and is hit on by an unassuming FDR who also asks her out. Quelle scandale!


Now BOTH men are dating Lauren! Being CIA agents, they can also cyberstalk every inch of her life to beyond creepy levels. While doing simultaneous background checks on their new squeezes, they discover that they are one woman and make a “gentlemen’s agreement” (is that even possible in this scenario?) to continue dating her on separate occasions, neither intervening on the other’s agenda, and allowing her to ultimately choose who to be with. They agree to not let the scheme ruin their friendship, thus ignoring EVERY SIMILAR DEBACLE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.


So begins the battle of wits (let’s face it - nothing is witty in this script), with our challengers ushering our damsel through dates as diverse as flying trapeze acts at a carnival and dinner at a pizza parlor. Even though Tuck is buffer and has multiple large tattoos, he gushes to FDR after a carnival date: “We shared a kiss.” With the stakes now rising, our agents set up covert operations with their own teams to outdo each other. There is a humorous scene where both men sneak into Lauren’s place, unbeknownst to each other, to plant surveillance devices and gather intel while she bounces around in tiny pajamas making popcorn and singing to Montell Jordan. Back at headquarters, they can now stalk Lauren even more by watching her and Trish gossip about the attributes and flaws of each man. The ongoing joke about FDR’s small hands is hilarious as he appears truly self-conscious of them.


As their dual relationships with Lauren deepen, so does their competitiveness as the shenanigans become more extreme. FDR floods Tuck’s gorgeous wood-paneled apartment, while Tuck interrupts potential foreplay between FDR and Lauren by shooting him in the neck with a tranquilizer pellet. FDR has always been the lothario of the two, but he actually turns down a stewardess who habitually comes to his place on her days off and gazes on the bow scene in Titanic while wondering aloud “What’s happening to me?” He even takes her to meet his Nana, the true sign that our ladies’ man is softening. Poor Tuck, with his suave British accent and the fullest lips since Valentino’s puckering as he gushes to Lauren that he is falling in love with her. He doesn’t stand a chance against the bad boy gone good. Women always fall for the man they think they have changed.


Ultimately, sex has to come between friends, and the men’s longstanding friendship is broken once they learn the other has been intimate with the same woman. FDR puts in for a transfer and the two come to blows at a swanky restaurant where both has come to meet Lauren for a date. She, of course, is self-motivating in the ladies’ room and emerges to the shambles of an empty dining room unaffected by the mess but shocked upon overhearing that the two men are friends. She stamps off in disgust, never wondering how a cruise ship captain and a travel agent can singlehandedly destroy a place of business in about ten minutes.


Lest we forget Heinrich, that German terrorist whose brother was killed by falling off the Tokyo highrise and has been plotting his revenge on the duo. The screenwriter obviously does for a considerable portion of the movie until the last twenty minutes when Henrich and his thugs carjack Lauren and Trish, thus forcing the ex-best friends to WORK TOGETHER to rescue their fair lady on a high speed chase through the LA highway system (not before plucking Lauren into their open Jeep and leaving Chelsea and her Volkswagen bug to plunge head-first into a lake). Once our twin heroes have Reese in their car, they realize how petty their squabbling is by mutually exclaiming, “I love you, man” several times and convincing me of where their true feelings lay.


Lauren ultimately makes her choice as the Suburban driven by Henrich barrels towards them at the precipice of an unfinished stretch of highway, leading one to bow in defeat and the other to declare he will make her pancakes for breakfast “for the rest of her life.” The saccharine dialogue was worse than any Nicholas Sparks date night.


I know I should just put aside my standards and just enjoy this piece of fluff for its chic fashions, unbelievably hip apartments, and flashy cars. I was unaware that CIA agents could afford homes out of Architectural Digest in trendy Los Angeles neighborhoods and devote the majority of their time to cyberstalking love interests instead of protecting national security. No time for substance - rather, this film is a stylistically hip as a P. Diddy music video with our spies traversing skyrise rooftops, destroying upscale L.A. eateries, zooming their speedsters around race tracks, and bypassing the velvet ropes to secure private tables in clubs. This film was directed by McG, who began his career by directing music videos and was responsible for Charlie’s Angels which explained everything. In continuing his trend of campy dialogue and cliched special effects, he has made a romantic comedy involving dueling spies that even a monkey could figure out. 

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