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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Action/Adventure, Romance
Cast
Reese Witherspoon as Lauren; Chris Pine as FDR Foster; Tom Hardy as Tuck; Chelsea Handler as Trish
Director
McG (Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Charlie's Angels)
Distributor
20th Century Fox
In Theaters
February 17, 2012
On Video
May 22, 2012
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
This Means War

This Means War

Spy guy Tuck and his suave partner FDR make a pretty great team. They're like two peas in a well-tailored pod. They can stroll into a party in Hong Kong and instantly blend in with the chic high-dollar crowd. They can charm the guests while smoothly spotting danger and opportunity. And at a moment's notice they can seamlessly fly into secret agent action, tag-team their way through a small army of Russian thugs and grab a targeted briefcase—without breaking a sweat or even loosening their ties.

When it comes to women, though, this pair of best buds couldn't be more out of sync. Tuck is a bit shy around the fairer sex. And, if anything, he'd really like to settle down. He has a son, but he and his ex aren't getting back together any time soon, he can assure you. FDR, on the other hand, is the consummate playa and always on the make. Any girl he sees is an instant target. And he's handsome and charming enough that, well, his target practice doesn't take much effort.

But then Lauren enters the scene.

Tuck spots the pretty blonde on a dating site and asks her out. A product tester for a consumer magazine and still reeling from a recent breakup, Lauren is a little embarrassed that her friend posted her pic on the site at all. She goes along with it, though, and Tuck is quickly wowed.

Unfortunately, right after their first meeting, Lauren runs into FDR, who's unaware of the date she's just been on with Tuck. He pops out some snappy banter and expects her to swoon. She's not impressed, and she walks away. That means only one thing to FDR: A smart, attractive woman isn't interested in him at all—so he must have her.

So what happens when two government agents—with all the technological whizz-bang of the United States at their fingertips—vie for the favor of the same pretty girl?

Why, war, of course.

Positive Elements

For all of the film's displays of bad behavior and poor choices, there are still a few moments of reason. Tuck, as mentioned, is looking for a solid relationship. And he sees some good relational longevity flowing from the commitment his grandmother and grandfather have for each other. He's also a loving dad, who wants to do right by his son. [Spoiler Warning] He and his ex-wife do eventually reconcile.

FDR eventually falls under the sway of true love as well. He starts feeling something new and unique in his relationship with Lauren (though how that comes to be in the midst of all his deception is a mystery). He begins turning away other female advances.

Even the flaky Trish (Lauren's friend) voices a few words of relational sense. She speaks of relying on her husband for advice and support. And in that light, she tells Lauren, "Don't choose the better guy, choose the guy who makes you a better girl."

Sexual Content

Lauren decides that the only way she can choose between Tuck and FDR is to have sex with both of them. To that end, we see her stripped to her underwear and wrapped around a shirtless FDR as they get intimate on her kitchen counter. The next day he's naked (but relatively covered) in her bed.

There are a number of other moments of (mostly dressed) passionate necking between Lauren and her two suitors. And spy team members watch and record the trysts and report the activities in slyly measured dialogue, such as, "He just entered the, uh … premises."

A glass ceiling in FDR's bachelor pad reveals a pool above, in which he can watch bikini-clad swimmers. Various women wear formfitting and cleavage-revealing outfits at parties and clubs. Lauren walks around in her apartment dressed in a loose sweater that just barely covers her backside. Dancers at a strip club wear barely-there bras, panties and garter belts.

Trish has a series of raw talks with Lauren about the single girl's dating escapades. Topics range from penile reductions to sexual flexibility to body parts that can be seen through clothing. One of the conversations takes place over the phone while Trish is pants-less and straddling her boxer shorts-wearing husband during sex.

Lauren's ex-fiancé kisses his new girlfriend in front of Lauren.

Violent Content

Being government agents, FDR and Tuck encounter a number of bullet-flying, bomb-exploding situations when they're not battling over Lauren. All of those official spy interactions center around a Russian killer who's set on their destruction after they accidentally kill his brother.

Dozens die in bloody gunfights. The heroes fight at least a dozen baddies in bare-knuckle fistfights and car-leaping takedowns. Men blow up in exploding vehicles, splat to the roadway at high speeds and speed off high bridges to their fiery deaths. And the key explosions and careening vehicles are intermittently showcased with slow-motion detail. Tuck and FDR come out of each battle whole but always bloodied.

At one point, though, the friends turn their full attention to fighting each other over Lauren's affections. Among other things, they clear out a restaurant as they pummel and bloody each other, crash through glass walls and tumble off a balcony to smash the tables below.

To protect Trish from a killer, Tuck and FDR force her to drive through a highway guardrail and crash her car into a large pool. Tuck's son is beaten up in a Tae Kwon Do match—the father of the opposing boy yelling for a painful outcome. Later in the film, Tuck punches the big man in the stomach to even the score.

Lauren worries that using a dating site will result in her becoming a "skin suit." To stop FDR from having sex with Lauren, Tuck shoots his friend with a tranquilizer dart. Lauren accidentally shoots Tuck in the crotch with a paintball gun.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and a half-dozen s-words. Several uses each of "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard." God's name is misused nearly 10 times. There's one use of "b-llocks." Someone flips his middle finger at the camera.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Trish has a cup of "special milk" that she keeps her kids away from and drinks from regularly. Hong Kong partygoers drink glasses of wine and champagne. And FDR takes Lauren to a nightclub that sports lots of people with glasses of alcohol. Tuck, FDR and Lauren all drink at parties, at a café and at home on several occasions. While on assignment with FDR, Tuck feigns being drunk.

Trish suggests that her friend needs a joint.

Other Negative Elements

Lauren initially tells FDR that he has "the emotional intelligence of a 15-year-old boy"—but she goes out with him anyway. Trish spills out lots of off-color gags, including a quip about her husband's "undescended testicle." The guys talk about a dating site and FDR quips, "Half the girls on that site pee standing up."

Conclusion

On the face of things, the romcom-with-a-twist idea behind This Means War feels like it could have possibly been fun. Two friends are in love with the same girl but … wait for it … they're both secret government agents.

Here's the pitch to the studio execs: There'll be pretty stars, lots of bam-boom action, secret spy gizmos, and gobs of playful jokes about jealous best friends and a gal who can't make up her mind. It'll never be great cinema, but, hey, it could be date night cute.

Other than the movie's attractive stars, however, cute never really shows up. What's splashed up on the screen is something much closer to creepy and crass. The two spying beaus keep their true jobs a secret while using government resources and high-tech teams to, well, stalk their prey and voyeuristically record her every intimate moment.

In fact, the whole spy guy scenario quickly becomes ludicrous as these two dudes use tranq darts and surveillance drones to keep each other from "scoring." And even 1970s-era James Bond would have found the million-dollar cars and bachelor pad with a bikini-girl-in-the-swimming-pool glass ceiling to be a little over the top.

From there it's an easy veer toward "who's the hottest lover," with giggling discussions of body parts and sexing techniques. The worst of the sleazy humor falls to late-night talk show host/comedienne Chelsea Handler—playing Lauren's raunchy gal-pal who spits out scores of hop-in-the-sack gags while swilling booze from her kids' sippy cups.

On that front, star Reese Witherspoon, in a Today Show interview, suggested that most of Handler's raw quips were actually off-script adlibs tossed in to spice things up. "I learned some things I'm gonna try to forget," Witherspoon jokingly opined.

If you don't see the movie, you won't have to do the same.

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