By Alexander Goodlive
Imagine that two secret agents coincidentally fall in love with the same, down-home blonde-haired Reese Witherspoon… Just imagine that. Now let’s imagine that these two secret agents are actually James T. Kirk and Bane in a series of one-upping Bash Brothers mayhem. Witherspoon meets Tom Hardy on an online date, while Chris Pine heaps a massive dose of Casanova fail on her, though she is slowly charmed by his loveable narcissism. Oh, and Chelsea Handler is the best friend, obliging her duties by giving exposition to the NSA-style setup the agents arranged in order to learn everything about the girl.
Doesn’t that sound awesome?
Oh, it is, but not for the reasons it intended to be.
This Means War is a movie desperately trying to bridge the genre between romantic comedy and live-action thriller. The casting seems like it would successfully do that, especially when you have Hardy and his outrageous biceps right on the screen for a good portion of the movie. What this movie actually delivers is a combination of overcompensation and homoerotic nuance while the mutual romantic interest mostly disappears into the background, and the viewer is left wondering why either of the secret agents would have any interest in Reese when their true callings seem to be toward each other.
Oh yeah, and there is some plot about a Russian dude trying to seek vengeance for them killing his brother, but… Nobody really cares. Hardy has an ex-wife and a kid, but nobody really notices. Hardy and Pine have a team, but nobody really notices. Handler has a fat husband, because with so much Hardy-Pine fanservice already taking place here, a hot comedic male bit part would just be too much.
While most of the action scenes can’t be taken seriously in this movie due to hokey cinematography, the hilariously over-acted scenes where FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) sabotage each other’s date nights are fantastic, making sure that neither Bash Brother does the deed with the seemingly oblivious Witherspoon. Throughout this flick, several references are made to other romantic movies, such as Titanic in a scene trying to convince us that FDR is capable of having human emotions. It just comes across as acknowledging other movies that were successful instead of trying to be one.
The best part of it, however, is that the movie itself is completely aware of this.
I think This Means War started as an attempt to combine an action movie and a romantic chick-flick, and then got so caught up in how well FDR and Tuck interacted that it became focused on them. Similarly to how Caddyshack wasn’t originally supposed to be about Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield, Hardy and Pine steal the show with their witty, fast-paced conversation, at least when they’re not being chewed out by fed boss Angela Bassett.
The scenes where they do get to the action are over-the-top and ridiculous, and if you’re watching this in the mindset that you’re watching a serious movie, it definitely is just as bad as you would think. However, if you’re sitting with a wide-length plate of china ready to pluck a few slices from a 90-minute dose of Spy Ham, you’ll find This Means War funny at its good parts, silly at its worst, but a delightful view overall.
Alexander Goodlive is an English/cinema double major at the University of Pennsylvania, commuting from Harrisburg. He has five published books, hosts the snarky Internet show “Jaded Hope,” and writes weekly for lordsofpain.net under the alias Al Laiman. In his spare time, he’s a stand-up guru, and recently placed well in the championship round of International Underwater Basket-Weaving.
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