“This Means War” has so much handsomeness, beauty and charm that it almost makes you forget how bad a movie it is. Almost.
Surely, ridiculous implausibility and inane storytelling are enough to undo any movie, right? Well, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine are here to challenge that notion with their big blue movie-star eyes, million-dollar smiles and delightful senses of humor.
Hardy and Pine play C.I.A. operatives/ best friends Tuck and FDR, respectively, who are working to stop a terrorist named Heinrich (Til Schweiger) from world domination. Tuck has an ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) and son (John Paul Ruttan), while FDR is the consummate ladies man.
Things are peachy between Tuck and FDR until each meets and becomes infatuated with Lauren (Witherspoon), an unlucky-in-love single woman whose job as a consumer reports executive should make her uniquely qualified to judge between two quality products. Knowing that they are in competition for her, both men use all the C.I.A. resources they can find in hopes of getting the upper hand.
But even with the help of best friend Trish (a hilarious Chelsea Handler), Lauren can’t choose — and considering the rugged manliness of Hardy and the pretty-boy hotness of Pine, who can blame her?
As for Tuck and FDR, friendship be damned — this is Reese Witherspoon they’re fighting for, after all.
The best moments come when director McG shows the guys one-up each other as they date Lauren, the highlight of which comes when Tuck takes her paintballing to show that he’s not “all safe.” Clearly, the actors are having a good time with this — as they should — which makes it only a minor nuisance that bad-guy Heinrich insists on popping pt up in order to keep the throwntogether plot intact.
But just when you think it’s all silly fun, McG unleashes some stunning camera work that will please even the most nay-saying cineastes. Specifically, on Lauren and FDR’s first date there’s a long-take tracking shot that is something of a technical marvel: We see Lauren and FDR outside as they walk into a club, through a crowd and to their table, which has been brought out just for them. It’s a respectable homage to the Copacabana sequence in “Goodfellas,” and any film lover should appreciate the time, choreography and patience it takes to capture such a shot. Sure, it’s a nugget of aesthetic gold inside a Hollywood cash register, but darn if it doesn’t make everything else that much more tolerable.
“This Means War” is one scene too long and full of things that could never possibly happen. But it’s also the kind of movie you can’t help but like, featuring a story told with such whimsy and glee that the only possible way to react to it is to smile. And so I smiled. ¦
>>Pine and Hardy have “Star Trek” captain connections: Pine played Capt. Kirk in the 2009 franchise reboot, and Hardy played Capt. Picard clone Shinzon in “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002).