Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review - This Means War

Two CIA agents find themselves in a relationship with the same girl and working against each other to win her affections.

"This Means War" feels like a friend who came to a casual party all dressed up in a tuxedo, leaving them a little bit out of place. You know their intentions were good. They wanted to look good for the party, but by over doing it they end up just looking silly.

"This Means War" is plain and simple too glossy and ultra Hollywood. Director McG would have benefited from removing the extra layer of shine. Everything from the set design to post-effects just seem bright and shiny. Its like a catalog of brand new stuff. Every scene looks polished and as if some guy came by with a coat of turtle wax buffing everything in sight. Nothing actually looks lived in or real, but instead straight out of a store you could not afford. One specific example comes in a scene where Reese Witherspoon's character Lauren meets her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) to discuss the two men she is dating. The girls meet at this children's gym or play place type location but it just screams a dressed set and feels phony. The rest of the movie thrives off that same feeling and if it were not for the comical banter between Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, this spy vs spy comedy would have failed on every level.

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy should bring a smile to your face as they play off each other. The duo's dialogue and scenarios not only gave me a smile but they brought plenty of laughter too. "This Means War" is the type of comedy I suspect will be better served with an audience in the mood for a few laughs. At home on the couch and I'm not so sure that it will maintain the same level of hilarity. That said, Pine and Hardy really turn on the funny. The editing back and forth between the opposing sides during the spy vs. spy dating sequences is particularly appealing. The audience gets a playful balance between the teams as one team tries to create the best date, the other tries to dismantle it and vice versa. These sequences generate the most laughter and end up being the highlight of the action-comedy but there are not enough of them. Walking away I felt jipped by how little spy vs spy we actually got.

Speaking directly to the action sequences, they are all a big letdown. McG shows he has zero ingenuity or desire to think outside of the box. Every single sequence feels copy and pasted from older and superior action movies. It is like tracing other images your whole life and never actually trying to draw the lines yourself, McG just lifts from what he thought was cool and retreads it back on screen with less impact.

One thing "This Means War" desperately needed was stakes, there is nothing at stake watching the film. Well, sure the script has stakes penned into the story, but they never feel tangible or do anything other than unfold like wrapping paper on a birthday present. Outside of knowing exactly which guy Lauren will choose, I'm sure most general audiences saw where this film was going after watching the trailer. Worse yet, as the action-comedy plays out, there are indicators revealing where this film will end up that are repeatedly flashed in the audience face like high beams on a two-way street.

"This Means War" is harmless and routine. The troubling aspect is the potential it had. It only skims the surface of its potential. The romantic angle is a prime example. There is absolutely zero attachment to the romantic arc. The romance feels tacked on. It feels like it is there solely to drive up the ticket sales. Like some studio head was demanding, an action movie that appeals to men and women, one they could open on Valentines Day. At least, they did a good job casting the men. Tom Hardy and Chris Pine are both easy on the eyes for the women and while I'm not attracted to Reese Witherspoon, I know quite a few men that are. The movie typically drives up the sex appeal on both sides, showing off the actors in a few skimpy outfits or in as minimal clothing as possible, but like I said there is nothing to attach yourself to. While I enjoyed the characters, I never became invested in them when I should have.

Which is a perfect way to sum up how I feel about the film overall. I enjoyed "This Means War," there were plenty of laughs to be had and it was a fun movie to just watch, but it is not a movie I walked away talking about. I didn't reminisce about a particular scene over and over or recount the laughs with friends. Instead it is a movie that I started to pick a part afterwards. It is a action-comedy I wished had done a better job with its action. It is after all, an after thought, something that could have been memorable but isn't.