This Means War (R, 20th Century Fox)

 

film this-means-war_smIt is different from the standard rom-com…until it isn’t.

 

 

film this-means-war_lg

Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) is not a bed-hopper. In fact, the career-minded lass in so in love with her job at a Consumer Reports-like product testing company that she hardly has time to date, much less mate.

But when Lauren’s sassy friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) secretly adds her profile to an online dating site, Lauren’s romantic life gets more complicated than she ever could have expected, and she starts falling for two guys: Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine).

So far, all the usual boxes in the rom-com checklist have been checked. But wait.

What Lauren doesn’t know is that Tuck and FDR are best friends andCIAagents. Also? They know they’re both wooing Lauren but have decided not to tell her.

This Means War tries to prove to us just how different it is from other romantic comedies: Look! A gunfight! A car chase! An explosion, even! And it is different from the standard rom-com…until it isn’t. The film amounts to a mix of traditional romantic themes and wild action that still manage to take us to the exact same place as other movies in those disparate genres. Will Lauren choose Tuck, the tough-but-sensitive single dad with the amiable baby mama, or the tough-but-immature FDR who just really bugs her? And will the boys somehow stop the generically villainous villain? Hmm.

It’s the romantic comedy as secret agent cartoon. FDR bullies Lauren into going out with him after disrupting her focus group at work. Tuck and FDR James Bond their way through a glitzy party filled with beautiful women and heavily accented bad guys. Lauren and Tuck share a romantic night of circus acrobatics (yes, really, and no, that’s not a metaphor) and kiss under a canopy of twinkly lights. While riding in a convertible with Lauren, Tuck discreetly shoots down an unmanned spy plane. With a handgun.

It’s not a bad mix, but the individual parts are so typical that even though the filmmakers have (thankfully) attempted something different, it doesn’t add up to much. After Tuck and FDR realize they’re dating the same woman, they agree to be gentlemen about it, not get in the other man’s way and let Lauren decide who sticks around. I’m sure you can guess how long that lasts.

The men quickly realize that using CIA resources will help them gain an edge in the competition. On its face, the concept is funny. The problem, though, is that while Lauren genuinely falls for both guys, we know it’s mainly because they’re using spycraft to increase their chances. We end up feeling a bit sorry for Lauren, who actually thinks she’s bonding with the boys. By the time Tuck and FDR really do care about her, they’ve done so much sneaky stuff that it’s hard feel that either guy really deserves Lauren. To a certain extent, she becomes a prize in a macho contest. It’s not the woman who matters, it’s who wins her.

This Means War was clearly meant to appeal to both sexes: action for the guys and lovey-dovey scenes for the ladies. A pretty heroine chased by two ludicrously handsome alpha men who are capable of showing tender emotion. A movie that, in theory, nobody would have to be dragged to. And while the spy-action half of the movie is more interesting than the rom-com half, neither is really deep enough to satisfy fans of either genre. If you don’t mind this split-the-difference approach, your enjoyment of the film may largely depend on whether you find predictability comforting or annoying. | Adrienne Jones

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