In 1952, MAD Magazine was first published and inside was a comic that still runs today called Spy vs. Spy. It's a silly, wordless cartoon about a black spy and a white spy who just try to kill each other. About five years ago, it was rumored in Hollywood that they were going to take that wordless, short classic comic and turn it into a feature film. Bad script after bad script was written and the idea was laid to rest in horrible idea heaven...but then someone came up with the idea to add a girl and make it a love story and the end result was This Means War...a far cry from it's 1952 beginnings.
Even with an idea like the one we end up seeing in This Means War, doesn't mean it's good. In fact, it's a pretty lame, tired idea of a romantic, action comedy about two so-and-sos fighting for the love of a woman. What makes this film good is the talent that was brought to the table. Reese Witherspoon is the only face you may recognize unless you love movies. Her two handsome suitors are played by Chris Pine (Unstoppable, Star Trek) and Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises). These two guys are actors I've had my eye on for a while going all the way back to Pine in Bottle Shock and Hardy in Bronson. They are both very skilled actors in their own way; Pine is charming and funny and Hardy is dark and intense (albeit not in this). Their talent doesn't fall short in this either, which is a shock for Hardy to see him pull off comedy so well.
It's still not a talent dreamteam without a good director and This Means War got a pretty good one. It was directed by a guy named McG. His real name is Joe McGinty Nichol but he calls himself "McG." It's true that he has a reputation for being as douchey as that nickname would have you believe but he's actually a pretty talented director when it comes to action films. He directed both Charlie Angels films and had the balls to do Terminator Salvation, all of which were better than expected. This Means War might be his best one yet and it captures the fun, explosions, funny and car chases that keep this film exciting.
However, the attempt to make the perfect date movie that both men and women could enjoy is what made this movie fall short of being great. They spend such emphasis on making sure the film is a romantic comedy and a comedic action that both story lines are elementary at best. On the action side, yes there's a bad guy the spies are after but what does he do? Why is he bad? Who knows? It's not important. We just know he's bad because he's wearing black, never smiles and shoots at the heroes. On the romance side, the relationships are ushered along so quickly that the plausability for Witherspoon to fall for either of these guys or for the guys to be okay with the other one dating her is void. Not to mention that the way both stories are wrapped up at the end is rushed, confusing and laughably unbelieveable.
But that's not why we love movies like this, is it? We wanted shallow romance, sexy explosions and cheap laughs and goddamnit, we get it all! This Means War is a film that is as charming as its two male leads. Sure it's hardly deep, richly dressed up and doesn't think too much, but who can resist those eyes? And the car chases, guns and funny quips too?
This Means War (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B