This Means War is like a young, dumb illegitimate progeny of True Lies and Get Smart. The film is a slick but overly manufactured goofy mess – while half an hour of this nonsense would have been a laugh riot, an hour and a half is a bit of an eye roll.
Director McG, who made the horrendous Terminator: Salvation and the idiotic Charlie’s Angels films relies heavily on sight gags and his stars’ (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) sheer screen presence for laughs, and for the most part he succeeds. While the writing is mostly uninspired, there are some hilarious lines, like when a female character compares a man’s insufficient nether organ to a poltergeist.
Coming to the story, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are best friends and top CIA super spies who’re on the hunt for an international gangster (Til Schweiger). Both FDR and Tuck are rich, suave, handsome, sophisticated, but single. Along comes the equally desperate singleton Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) and they both fall in love with her; and Lauren goes ahead and dates both of them. Neither FDR nor Tuck want to let go of Lauren, and each uses CIA high tech gizmo resources to survey Lauren’s dates with the other. The two go so far as to creating their own rival spy teams for the same. What follows are silly, slapstick, cringe inducing, at times hysterical scenes where one tries to outwit the other, all leading to a clumsy climax featuring a big action scene straight out of Speed.
The film works in parts because of its delightful leads Hardy and Pine – in fact the two share more chemistry than individually with Witherspoon. If they can be extremely likable in a shoddy movie like This Means War, they’d really bring the house down if they’re paired in a better written action comedy.
But Reese Witherspoon here looks and behaves like she agreed to take another Legally Blonde role and her heart didn't. She plays the same old standard Hollywood heroine who is single and humiliated in front of an ex despite being super-hot. To add to the stereotype, she even feels guilty for dating two guys simultaneously and is advised by a scrappy best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Incidentally, if you love potato chips, you will be forever averse to them when you see how Trish and her husband eat them. There is also CIA boss Angela Basset, who is given a grand total of one minute’s screen time in what seems like a larger role edited off.
This Means War is riddled with clichés but has a crackerjack of a lead duo to (almost) make up for where it lacks. It’s mindless, screwball, fun escapist entertainment.
(First published in Mid Day)