With all the charm of a cold sore, Chris Pine plays a womanizing CIA agent named Franklin in This Means War. With one eye seemingly on the door to his trailer, Tom Hardy plays his partner and pal, Tuck — he of beefier build and heart.
Oh, right. Sorry. Their names are Tuck and FDR. The Franklin makes sense. But why did the Delano Roosevelt come into play? Even asking that question affords it more thought than screenwriters Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg provided.
For lack of a better reason, Franklin and Tuck sounds too much like a pair of sassy TV cops who bust heads and hearts. But even the most basic of cable series tends to have more panache and potential than This Means War. Here, most of the things that people tend to enjoy about entertainment — humor, chemistry, coherence, Reese Witherspoon — shrivel and die a slow death.
For those insisting Hollywood is a barren place for even the greatest actresses, this is about the 3,467th piece of evidence. Double the age of Witherspoon’s Nicole in Fear, and that’s as complex a character as she’s asked to play.
Pine and Hardy fare no better. Pine’s FDR is like Vince Vaughn’s asshat-frat little brother. And unless The Dark Knight Rises is far worse than anyone expects, this will be the only time Hardy will say “Captain Hornypants” in 2012.
Witherspoon’s Lauren is a product tester and cranky cuckold who gets off the snide by dating both FDR and Tuck. Quickly, they abandon their bro bond to secure her affections. It’s much like the early days of Saved by the Bell when Zack Morris and AC Slater competed for Kelly Kapowski, only godawful.
FDR and Tuck deploy covert operations during a series of dates to gain an upper hand. And, for no reason, Lauren gives herself one week to decide between the two men. Of course, this week seems to last about 10 days given all the montages of sabotaged dates … groundbreakingly set to “Sabotage.”
Guns fire. Drones explode. Cars careen. Tranq darts hit necks. Paintballs hit crotches. Witherspoon bugs her eyes. Repeat. Vomit.
There’s a token glowering German (Til Schweiger) as the villain, whose brother Tuck and FDR throw off a building during a cheap-looking Hong Kong prologue. He later tracks them down by finding the only tailor who has ever … made a suit?
This Means War is basically the movie everyone feared Knight and Day or Mr. and Mrs. Smith (in which Kinberg apparently exhausted all of his good ideas) would be. Those turned out to be surprising soufflés. This is gray, mystery-meated hog slop.
And given the output of director McG (Charlie’s Angels and Terminator Salvation), this ineptitude is rather surprising. McG doesn’t make great movies. But empty-calorie candy fun is his forte and he often shrewdly, strategically deploys action sequences.
But here, every shootout seems to have gone through a Slap Chop. With obvious surgery to earn a PG-13, nearly every transition is a fade to black (convenient for the commercial breaks). And there was more charisma in nine minutes of Chuck (an agreeably silly network series about spies that McG produced) than in 98 of this.
As in Witherspoon’s ever-so-slightly more execrable Four Christmases, there are needless bits of slapstick violence against children. There’s also violence against comedy whenever Chelsea Handler shows up as Lauren’s friend with Borscht Belt zingers about Lauren’s vagina and FDR or Tuck’s penises.
Ah, yes. Those penises. It’s suggested that Tuck and FDR have seen each other’s goodies. And they talk about loving each other. A lot. That This Means War doesn’t even tread near the safe sitcom territory with that punchline is just another indication of its general uselessness and awfulness.