This Means War
dir McG
scr Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg
prd Simon Kinberg, James Lassiter, Robert Simonds, Will Smith
with Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris, John Paul Ruttan, Abigail Leigh Spencer, Warren Christie, George Touliatos, Clint Carleton
release US 17.Feb.12, UK 2.Mar.12
12/US Fox 1h38
This Means War
Spy vs spy: Hardy, Witherspoon and Pine

handler schweiger bassett
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
This Means War A lively pace and a nicely warped sense of humour help make this paper-thin action-comedy a mindlessly enjoyable romp. Sure, the central romantic triangle never really gels, but the bromance subplot is rather sweet.

Frank (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are best-pal CIA operatives who wouldn't know the word "subtle" if it clubbed them over the head. After a chaotic case in Hong Kong, they're grounded back home in L.A., and both decide to use the down time to find women. The problem is that they find the same woman, Lauren (Witherspoon), who struggles to decide which one is right for her. Certainly her married best pal Trish (Handler) is no help. The bigger problem is that Frank and Tuck use the agency's resources to sabotage each other.

The premise is so preposterous that it doesn't really matter that it won't hold water. Especially since a villainous goon (an underused Schweiger) follows them to California for one purpose only: to provide a big action finale. What's stranger is the way the script sets up the characters: Frank is a toxic womaniser whose only interest seems to be notches on his bedpost, while Tuck is so adorably nice that he's too good to be true. He even has an adorable 7-year-old son (Ruttan). In other words, the set-up itself sabotages the love triangle.

Much more fun is the male relationship, which is tetchy, funny, and packed with realistic camaraderie and competition. The emotional scenes are scriptwriting 101, but Pine and Hardy find a terrific spark of chemistry both with each other and with Witherspoon, who puts all her perkiness on-screen with an undercurrent of steely grit. But the film is stolen by Chandler, who not only gets the best lines, but clearly ad-libs much of her dialog in such a way that her costars struggle to stay in character.

This slightly anarchic undercurrent is what made McG's Charlie's Angels movies so enjoyable as well. It isn't believable for a second, and every element of tension or emotion that the script tries to generate comes second to the goofy antics. In other words, it's a pretty terrible movie. But you can't help but have a lot of fun watching it.

cert 15 themes, innuendo 9.Feb.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall