Part spy caper, part buddy picture, part romantic comedy, part raunchy-girl-talk sex farce, This Means War has been assembled with all the haphazardness of an amateur science experiment. The project was directed by the amped-up industry go-getter McG (Charlie’s Angels), and it’s had a long trial-and-error history. The initial script dates back a century — or at least about a decade — and the string of famous guys who didn’t take the dual lead male roles reportedly includes Bradley Cooper, Seth Rogen, Sam Worthington, and, stretching even further back, Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. All this fiddling and fumbling shows on the screen. And yet, and yet…I confess I enjoyed everything that’s all over the place about the finished product. This Means War may have been hammered together by brute Hollywood force, but there’s this going for it: It’s game to throw in anything that’ll keep the motor running.
Star Trek’s Chris ”Blue Eyes” Pine plays a top-ranked CIA agent and ladies’ man clumsily nicknamed FDR. Inception’s Tom ”Blue Eyes” Hardy plays a fellow spy whiz and soulful divorced dad clumsily nicknamed Tuck. The two are best friends, which makes the revelation that they have fallen for the same woman, Lauren, particularly sticky. Not that one can blame them: Reese ”Blue Eyes” Witherspoon plays her with sunny charm. And with a new feeling of relaxed confidence (rather than taut eagerness) radiating off her every smile, Lauren — an efficient product analyzer at a consumer-advocacy magazine — is inarguably crushworthy.
FDR and Tuck learn of their shared love interest only when it’s too late and they’re both in it to win it. And so, utilizing crack spy strategies, they simultaneously put all their best moves on the lady. Meanwhile, they keep tabs on each other’s progress, and they ain’t too proud to sabotage whoever’s in the lead. (I imagine a lot of foggy brainstorming sessions went into plotting all those elaborate dating maneuvers. A fistful of fellows receive credit for the screenplay and/or the story.) For her part, Lauren doesn’t know that her two new beaux are also buds. All she knows is that she’s got the dreamy problem of having to choose A or B, and for unreliable guidance, she consults her best friend, Trish, a wife and mother with the kind of dirty mind and potty mouth one would expect when casting brassy TV talk-show host Chelsea Handler in the role. There’s no reason that particular spice has been added to the stew, but hey, I’ve tasted worse. Likewise, Inglourious Basterds’ professional German scowler Til Schweiger shows up as an international spy-world baddie. He’s welcome too.
As is true in most buddy pictures, the real love in This Means War is between FDR and Tuck. Pine and Hardy are an odd choice as Men Who Bond. Pine behaves like a player on Entourage; Hardy broods as if he thinks dating is torture. But as a result, they’re kind of cute in an itchy and scratchy way, bumping shoulders in a pantomime of what men do in love and war. B