This Means War: Your Burning Questions Answered

by Ethan Alter February 14, 2012 6:05 am
<i>This Means War</i>: Your Burning Questions Answered

If you're like us, the trailer for the new action-laced romantic comedy This Means War left you with a ton of questions. Sure, "Why was this movie made?" is the most obvious one, but the premise -- two CIA agents (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) fall in love with the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) -- confused us for other reasons as well. Now that we've seen the McG-directed film -- which will have Valentine's Day showings tonight before opening in general release on Friday -- we can address some of the burning questions it raises. Questions like...

Okay, so I've never met even one CIA agent in my life. How the heck does Reese meet two?
Through your typical series of completely implausible rom-com contrivances, of course! Witherspoon plays Lauren Scott, one of those mythical, unicorn-like creatures that only exists in glossy studio movies: the gorgeous blonde who can't get a date. So her married best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler, basically playing a PG-13 rated version of herself) signs her up for an online dating service through which she meets Tuck (Hardy), a single dad who's finally gotten interested in dating again after his marriage went south due to his demanding Agency job. Tuck and Lauren hit it off during their first date at a pub and afterwards she heads off to a video rental place (wait... those still exist?) and bumps into FDR (Pine), Tuck's friend and fellow agent who agreed to hide out close by the pub in case his pal's date fizzled. Naturally, he doesn't know that Lauren is Tuck's girl and she doesn't know that he's Tuck's buddy. All they do know is that they've got a certain spark of chemistry and, before she knows it, Lauren has two CIA guys desperate to date her instead of just one.

Well... that kind of makes sense. Actually, no it doesn't. Not a bit. Whatever -- moving on. So one of these guys is Tom Hardy. The other is not. Why is this even a choice for her?
Good question! We have no idea why this decision caused such tsuris either. Sure, Chris Pine seems pleasant enough and his other job is commanding a starship, which is pretty hot. But c'mon, Reese... this is Tom Hardy we're talking about here. Have you even seen Warrior? Or Inception? Perhaps aware of just how much Hardy dominates his co-star in the looks and charisma department, This Means War goes out of its way to make Tuck the less dynamic character. Where FDR is described as being akin to "dirty sex," Tuck is just labeled "safe".... although those tattoos that Hardy sports would beg to differ. Lauren also feels more of a connection to FDR because he supposedly challenges her to be a better person. From what we could see though, his method of "challenging" her is to act like a jackass until she snaps at him. Give us "safe" any day.

On the flip side, what exactly do they see in her? What makes Lauren a better mate for them than say... each other?
Well... um... she's really pretty? (And we mean really pretty. As a filmmaker, McG does very little well, but he is quite skilled at making beautiful women look even more beautiful.) But Lauren is more than just a rockin' bod, a great smile and amazing hair. She also... uh... loves animals! And she likes her job as a product researcher! She also bathes regularly, enjoys classic movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and hasn't killed anyone (as far as we know)! So yeah, clearly she's a real catch for these guys. On the other hand, they do seem far more comfortable and at ease around each other than with her. And, as we're told at one point, Tuck has already seen FDR's junk on at least one prior occasion. C'mon fellas -- it's the 21st century and "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has been repealed. Don't be afraid to love the person you really love.

It's not a big shock that Hardy and Pine are forced to woo Witherspoon rather than each other. But aren't they at all skeeved out about the fact that she's effectively both of their sloppy seconds?
Yeah, you'd think that FDR and Tuck would be a tad more perturbed by the fact that Lauren thinks it's totally fine to date two dudes at once without telling either of them about the situation. (Of course, they aren't much better in the truth-telling department. So really, all of three of these people are sleazy liars who probably deserve each other.) It becomes particularly creepy when she decides that the only way to decide which guy is Mr. Right is by bedding each of them in quick succession, a plan that they're totally aware of. To their credit, we suppose, they only allow the charade to begin in the first place because they want to give Lauren the ability to choose who she wants to be with, rather than making that decision for her. (That's female empowerment for you, folks!) And they do try to establish some ground rules upfront, including no hanky panky. But a horny Reese Witherspoon proves understandably difficult to resist, so they each eventually have to resort to using all of the CIA resources at their disposal to ensure that the other guy doesn't tap dat ass first.

I'm a taxpayer -- shouldn't I be angry that some of my tax dollars are apparently being used so that two CIA agents can cockblock each other?
Yes, yes you should. If this movie is any indication as to how effectively the CIA is able to manage its resources and its personnel, it's no wonder that it took us over a decade to catch Bin Laden.

What's the action-to-rom com ratio?
We'd say about 70/30. The movie opens with a set-piece staged on the fakest looking Hong Kong set you've ever seen (McG is famously afraid of flying, so we guess it's no surprise that he didn't pull a Chris Nolan and insist on shooting on location) and then concludes with a chase along the L.A. freeways. In between, there are a few random bursts of action (most notably a paintball duel in which Tuck "slaughters" a bunch of teens and kids while trying to impress Lauren) but the focus is largely on the (nonexistent) laughs. There's also a heavy in the form of Heinrich (Til Schweiger), an international terrorist who is gunning for Tuck and FDR after they killed his brother, but this subplot is so stupid and tacked-on, it could easily have been chopped out without missing a beat. Actually, all of the action sequences could have been eliminated since they're horribly shot and seem to have been edited in a blender. Didn't Terminator Salvation teach people that McG has no idea how to shoot action?

Speaking of that particular devil, has McG mastered any new filmmaking skills since his last picture?
If by "mastering new filmmaking skills" you mean "finding other movies to shamelessly rip off," than yes, absolutely. For Terminator Salvation, McG happily swiped techniques from such movies as Children of Men, Transformers and, of course, James Cameron's original Terminator flicks. For This Means War he primarily raids Doug Liman's Mr. and Mrs. Smith for inspiration, but also swipes bits from Casino Royale and Community (the aforementioned paintball sequence). He's like the cinematic equivalent of a recycling plant.

I can infer from your steady stream of snark that you think this is a terrible movie. But I'm bored; it's a holiday weekend; the only other move out there is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and I really, really like looking at Reese Witherspoon and/or Tom Hardy. Doesn't that make This Means War worth seeing? Just a little bit?
Look, we can't control how you manage your money. If you honestly can't think of another activity that you'd rather spend 96 minutes (plus trailers and credits) doing on Valentine's Day or President's Day weekend, then by all means check out what McG hath wrought. Just be warned that this waste of celluloid isn't even entertaining in a so-bad-it's-good way. It's insipid, mindless and executed with all the style and panache of a detergent ad. This Means War may seem like the hottest thing around, but like a disappointing one-night stand, you'll come to regret it in the morning.

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