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‘This Means War’, starring Chris Pine and Tom Hardy and directed by McG, is an action romantic comedy about two CIA agents who accidentally start dating the same girl. Despite having a contrived coincidence plot, the film itself, released early for Valentine’s Day and set for wide release February 17th, is actually a shining beacon in the dying genre of romantic comedies.
The film kicks off with the two agents, Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) scouting out a party for a target. This introduces us to the two main characters and their dynamic, which is a typical but adorable pair of good friends. Tuck is more polite and sweet while FDR is roguish and impulsive. Their targets are two brothers and when a fiery shootout hits, one of the brothers is accidentally killed, causing the other, Heinrich (Til Schweiger), to swear revenge on the two friends.
Meanwhile, a lonely woman named Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) has gotten tired of the single life and her best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler), makes her a profile on a dating site. Similarly, Tuck has had little luck in love as he is divorced and has a child to take care of and so he decides to try the same dating site. He and Lauren meet up on a blind date and hit it off while FDR hangs out in a video store nearby just in case the date goes south and Tuck needs an escape.
However, Lauren goes to the video store and FDR, clueless that it’s the same girl Tuck had just gone out with, becomes interested in her as well. Tuck and FDR meet up later at their office only to discover they are dating the same girl. Both men offer to break it off with her because they are friends and do not want to lose their friendship over a girl, but their pride gets the better of them and it becomes a competition to see who Lauren chooses.
As their tempers flare, their friendship starts to fall apart while they aggressively try to get Lauren to fall in love with one of them. The casting is what truly sets this romantic action comedy apart from other movies in its genre. Pine and Hardy are believable best friends and work incredibly well together.
Both are genuinely funny, charming, and perform fantastic in both the comedy scenes and the action sequences. This is no surprise as both actors have backgrounds in both genres: Chris Pine started his career in romantic comedies like ‘Just My Luck‘ (2006) and ‘The Princess Diaries 2’ (2004) before getting his big break with J.J. Abram’s ‘Star Trek’ (2009), and Tom Hardy starred in Guy Ritchie’s hit action comedy ‘RocknRolla’ (2008) before landing the big job with Christopher Nolan in ‘Inception‘ (2010).
However, casting is also one of the big problems of the film: namely Reese Witherspoon. Her character is generic because the film focuses more on the boys than her and she is woefully miscast in this role because at the end of the day, she is not the kind of girl that these two handsome and incredibly talented fellows would fight over.
Her character is largely undefined and mostly uninteresting throughout the film, which may be a result of her best friend being the boisterous and crude Chelsea Handler. Handler easily outshines Witherspoon in every scene they share, which unfortunately makes one wonder if Witherspoon was only chosen as a second choice or because she is lovely eye candy.
Another detractor from the film is the tacked on villain role for the menacing actor Til Schweiger, who most know from his chilling role in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009). He is little more than an afterthought to the main conflict of the best friends’ fighting and is ultimately taken out in an insultingly simple fashion. His character has almost no lines and only serves to give the best friends a big scene to finish on, rather than being a legitimate threat.
Furthermore, while the best friends work perfectly together, they do have a lack of development by the film’s finish. FDR does grow out of his lecherous nature, but not much time is spent showing that he is a new man. There are also underlying, and probably unintentional, unfortunate implications that occur after Lauren’s choice. Overall, the ending is abrupt and the last line of the film feels forced, though it is enjoyable.
This Means War is honest about what it is: a popcorn flick with the buttery taste of a romantic comedy and the salty flavor of an action movie. Women can enjoy its thoroughly handsome main protagonists, men can enjoy the action, and both will enjoy the humor.
OVERALL GRADE: 3/5
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