‘This Means War’: Glibness undermines attractive cast

  • Wed Feb 15th, 2012 3:06pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

A passionate love affair is portrayed from the first scene of “This Means War,” complete with loving glances, strong bonds of trust and fervent declarations of affection and commitment.

There’s also a woman involved. See, Reese Witherspoon’s character doesn’t enter the story until 10 minutes into it.

Before that, we witness the bromance of a pair of well-groomed American spies, played by Tom Hardy and Chris Pine. Their male camaraderie is challenged by the arrival of this female; both fall for her, but they pledge a “gentleman’s agreement” to allow the best man to fairly win the lady’s hand.

She, for her part, doesn’t know they know each other, but she’s enjoying the attention. She also doesn’t know they’re spies.

You can see the outline of a glib action-comedy shaping up, although this one turns out to be surprisingly light on the action. The opening sequence establishes a villain (German star Til Schweiger) for the CIA agents, but drops the espionage until the climactic sequence.

In between, it’s the boys using their skills to sweep Witherspoon off her feet. This sometimes (well, most of the time) involves using surveillance to determine her likes and dislikes, and even to observe how she’s doing with each guy at any given moment.

There’s not too much time spent on ethical hand-wringing about this. When one of Pine’s colleagues raise the question, the dapper agent simple says, “Patriot Act,” and that ends the conversation.

Of course, one should not take a movie like this too seriously, and director McG (of the “Charlie’s Angels” pictures) doesn’t. The problem is, when nothing especially matters, even in a glib action-comedy, then nothing matters.

Witherspoon seems mostly to be idling, plus she’s stuck in many scenes with comedian Chelsea Handler as her supposed best friend, an onscreen pairing that doesn’t scan. The two rising stars on the male side fare somewhat better.

Chris Pine, the new Captain Kirk of “Star Trek,” breezes along in confident fashion, although it would be nice to see him add a few new wrinkles to his routine.

Tom Hardy, who scored strongly last year in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Warrior,” brings enough genuine cool to his role to make you wish “This Means War” had a bit more gravity. But that would be a very different movie, and it wouldn’t be opening around Valentine’s Day.

“This Means War” (2 stars)

Two CIA agents (Tom Hardy, Chris Pine) vie for the hand of the same woman (Reese Witherspoon), using the latest surveillance techniques to gain the upper hand. The movie’s so glib it doesn’t earn its action sequences or its romance, even if the performers are appealing.

Rated: PG-13 for violence, subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.