At first glance, This Means War seems too obvious—a glossy Hollywood product manufactured expressly for Valentine’s Day. It sells itself as the perfect blend of action and romance and stars one of the most bankable actresses working today alongside two buzzy up-and-coming actors. And yet, for the most part, it works. This Means War, which opens for select screenings today and heads into wide release this Fri., Feb. 17, is unabashed, bright candy-colored fun.
The premise is simple enough. Two guys (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine), who are also best friends, inadvertently fall for the same girl (Reese Witherspoon). But because these best friends are also CIA agents, the stakes are raised to be both hilarious and, at times, life-threatening. Reese Witherspoon brings a sex appeal to her character of Lauren that we haven’t seen in her work since Walk the Line. Of course, she kind of has to as the romantic foil for both Tom Hardy’s Tuck and Chris Pine’s FDR, because the three of them together are probably the best looking trio of leads in a movie ever.
What works best in This Means War are the things that appeal to both sexes—the humor, the characters and their relationships to each other, particularly in the sweet bromance between Tuck and FDR. What doesn’t work, aside from a video store meet-cute scene that seems almost anachronistic, are the big action set pieces, which is pretty surprising considering that the movie is helmed by director McG. One-time music video auteur McG made his directorial debut with two silly Charlie’s Angels flicks that were more fun than they had any right to be. Despite having more plot holes than a pair of fishnets, Charlie’s Angels created big action set pieces that were exciting to watch, which is why the ho-hum spy action of This Means War, and in particular the opening sequence that felt like a deleted scene from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, felt disappointing. By the time the spy action centers around FDR’s and Tuck’s attempts to sabotage each other’s chances with Lauren, the excitement definitely picks up, but I can’t help feeling like the intro and the rest of the spy storyline was a missed opportunity for greatness.
Overall, This Means War is pretty much the best Valentine Hollywood has given us yet—hot people falling in love, kicking ass and, the most romantic of all, making us laugh.