Those poor beautiful single people. With their fascinating jobs, condos appointed with lap pools and ginormous kitchens, and perfect, seemingly perky teeth, our hearts bleed for them. How will they ever find love with so little to work with?

Our "hapless" singletons here are FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), two CIA operatives who happen to be best friends. They're the kind of spies who hang out at rooftop parties in Hong Kong flirting with scantily clad models until the Russian baddies show up and they all shoot everything in sight while miraculously not getting so much as a scratch on their ruggedly handsome faces.

Tuck, a divorced single dad, signs up for a dating website, where he's taken with the profile of Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a consumer testing whiz (basically she gets to fire blow torches at frying pans and power washers at paint jobs to test their durability). Lauren was unknowingly signed up for the site by her best friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler), a randy married woman trying to live vicariously through Lauren.

Reese Witherspoon as Lauren, Chelsea Handler as Trish

Reese Witherspoon as Lauren, Chelsea Handler as Trish

On her way home from their first date, which by all accounts is a success, Lauren happens to meet FDR, who basically badgers her into going out with him. Tuck and FDR, being spies and all, do background checks on Lauren—and soon learn they're trying to woo the same woman. For these competitive thrill-junkies, it's game on.

Despite their ground rules, they're soon bugging Lauren's condo and breaking about 27 privacy laws trying to get the inside scoop on what might win this perky blonde's heart. With their intel, they soon take her on a cavalcade of super-dates—a trapeze adventure, touring a private collection of Gustav Klimt masterpieces, renting a classic car for a joyride in the mountains. Tra-la-la. It's like watching an episode of The Bachelor—dating as an Olympic sport.

Whatever will Lauren do? Will she go for the nice, safe Tuck? Or the smooth-talking, shallow FDR? Good thing she has her friend Trish offering "helpful" advice—like having a sex-off to determine the winner. Oh, Trish does offer some good advice, like picking the guy who makes Lauren her best self. Too bad we don't see enough actual conversation and interaction to get a sense of who that is.

Chris Pine as FDR, Tom Hardy as Tuck

Chris Pine as FDR, Tom Hardy as Tuck

Instead we get Lauren dancing around at home in a shirt and panties singing endearingly off-key while both Tuck and FDR are lurking just around the corner, spying on her reading material and planting surveillance equipment in her dining room centerpiece. Not at all creepy, that.

As I was watching This Means War, I kept thinking that it felt like a rom-com written by a guy (not a man, mind you, a guy). I was wrong. It was written by three guys. And I can just picture them sitting around with their bottles of beer brainstorming more gems to add to the film: the guys in the surveillance van watching Lauren and one of her dates get busy on the kitchen counter, big shiny things exploding, female characters who think gender equality means casual sex for all. Check, check, and check.

Game on

Game on

All of this is a shame not just because it insults our intelligence and any sort of moral mooring, but because it's all so unnecessary. Our three leads have all turned in great performances in other films. They're likable and fun to watch, and there are a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments here. They're just sandwiched between too many moments of lazy scriptwriting—spinach in the teeth, a guy getting hit in the crotch, the bad boy/good guy conundrum. And they've borrowed moments from other, better films like True Lies and Speed. Director McG, of Charlie's Angles: Full Throttle and Terminator Salvation fame, has made a McMovie—overprocessed and not a lot of taste.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What do you think about who Lauren picks at the end of the film? Why do you think she picked him?
  2. Why are the guys drawn to Lauren? Why is she drawn to each of them?
  3. Where do you picture these relationships in five years?
  4. Given these characters and plot set-up, how would you have written the ending?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

This Means War is rated PG-13 for sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language. There's no nudity, but certainly implied sex. And lots of talked-about and hoped-for sex. The violence is mostly frivolous shooting scenes without much bloodshed and no real gore. The language is fairly mild. The more troubling thing for young viewers here is the message the film sends about relationships. There's so much dishonesty and deception at the set-up of these possible pairings, and once that's discovered, no one seems too alarmed. And the film perpetuates that movie myth that a bad boy can be instantly tamed and turned into a faithful, loving boyfriend if he just finds the right woman. Teens deserve much better relationship models than this.

This Means War
Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language)
Directed By
Run Time
1 hour 43 minutes
Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy
Theatre Release
February 17, 2012 by 20th Century Fox
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