Published Feb 16, 2012With McG behind the camera and its conflict-friendly title, This Means War sounds like more of a summer release than a February stopgap, but don't believe the marketing; it's actually a rom com with a sprinkling of action rather than an action flick with a hint of romance. As such, it fares surprisingly well.
As FDR and Tuck, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play archetypes, best friends and CIA agents, both vying for the affections of reluctantly single Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Naturally, the rivalry envelopes coworkers and leads to light espionage and spy-style hijinks, eventually putting a strain on their friendship.
Pine is only slightly miscast as a tough guy lothario, while the versatile Hardy easily pulls off his sensitive counterpart (although flipping their roles would have worked just as well, if not better). Throughout, their banter is spry and fast-paced, giving the film levity and plenty of humour. Look for a particularly effective and telling meditation on Gustav Klimt.
Though both male leads are admittedly looking for vagina-equipped versions of one another, Witherspoon more than holds her own. While she treads close to sad-sack single territory, she infuses the part with enough gusto and realistic ambivalence to flesh it out.
Action segments, mostly relegated to quick-hit bookends and an after-thought plot device, are unexpectedly lackluster and disjointed. Conversely, the comedic beats, sight gags included, come off exceedingly well, thanks to a peppy script and the leads' general amiability. As Lauren's wisecracking best friend, Chelsea Handler threatens to steal the film, clichés be damned.
Thanks to its solid cast and a lively pace, This Means War is a decent entry into the action-peppered rom-com category, alongside genre mates Mr. and Mrs. Smith and reigning champ True Lies. (Fox)