“THIS MEANS WAR” Review (✫1/2)

Spy vs Spy in the most imbecilic way possible.

I hate formula movies.  I hate em, I hate em, I hate em.  They are predictable, repetitive, and annoying in nature, deafening and forgettable by default.  It doesn’t matter what genre its from: if it follows the formula, premise, or plot-line of another film, it is automatically doomed for failure.  You’ve never heard of Mac and Me because it isn’t E.T., and you don’t remember The Mummy because it isn’t Indiana Jones.  Why on earth, then, would we remember this when we already have movies like Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, and Men In Black?

This Means War is one of those movies that follows its formula so strictly, it treats its premise like its their only chance of survival.  Imagine the movie like the sinking Titanic, and the small plank of wood (the formula) is the actor’s only hope of survival.  Director McG should have actually seen Titanic though: the plank of wood didn’t have the strength to support its two leads.  What makes McG think that here it would support three?

This Means War follows the story of two CIA agents: partners, allies, goody-goody beer buddies.  FDR (Chris Pine) is an active womanizer who is always on the lookout for new jailbait.  Tuck (Tom Hardy) is his less-lucky friend who is divorced, has a son, and struggles to even find a date.  Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) is a bold, intelligent, and beautiful product-testing agent who struggles to find love.  Oh boy.

These are our characters: one of them a pleasure-seeking playboy and the other two romantically hopeless until they discover online dating.  And when Tuck arranges for a date online with the beautiful, yet oblivious, Lauren, their date leads to another coincidence encounter that could only happen in a movie: FDR, who just happened to be looking for a video in the rental store when he ran into Lauren.  From there, you can predict what the movie is: a spy-romantic-action-“comedy” about two expert CIA agents fighting over the same girl.

Har har har, hee hee hee.  How original.  Hasn’t this been done before?  How many times have we seen movies, television shows, novels, and even comic books about competing love interests?  I’m all for the buddy-cop-turns-rivalrous-romance gag, but the material in the story must be funny and/or clever in order for it to back up its lack of originality.

Expect none of that humor, wit, or emotion in this movie.  This Means War is mind-numbing, a sterile, unfunny, and idiotic film that tries to win us over with confidence and charisma, but instead rubs us off with immaturity and annoyance.  There’s no reason to care for these characters.  The emotion is artificial.  All of the jokes are unfunny, and they dilute to topics as silly and insignificant as alcohol in a baby’s bottle, or sex jokes involving Cheetos.  No, that was not a typo.  Think of how many jokes you can make about a small, orange, stubby-shaped object.  I’ll bet Chester was happy to hear about the product placement, though.

The greatest hinderance of this movie is its writing, where every single line of dialogue carries over its insincerity and its dependency on its paper-thin premise.  The dialogue is so shockingly dumbfounded that I wanted to rub my fingernails on the chalkboard owned to whoever taught these screenwriters how to write.  The smartest lines of dialogue in the film include something like “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” or “You have the intelligence of a fifteen year old boy!”.  Well, at least we’re on the same page here.

The only redeeming factor of this movie is the cast, who at times deliver their lines with whimsicality and good humor.  Even then though, their roles are wasted.  Their characters are so stupid, half-witted, and immature that they could only be artificial.  Take, for instance, Reese Witherspoon’s character.  How is it that a woman like her gets all of these advances and radical emotional changes from both of these guys, yet she continues to remain so clueless and oblivious like she’s out on a first date?  Explosions go off and these guys go kung-fu on each other and you still think they’re just travel agents?  Sorry, I’m not buying that.

Do I really need to elaborate any more here?  I’ve already said why This Means War is terrible, and I hope my point is made.  The chemistry is flat, plastic, and unbelievable, the dialogue, even more so.  The plot is stock, unoriginal, and lifeless.  The visual effects are so bad, you can see the CG on a car when it goes flying from an explosion.  The villains, especially, are extremely lackluster and uninspired.  What is more stock, for instance, than a Russian baddie trying to get revenge at two secret agents who killed his brother?

This, from the same guy who gave us We Are Marshall.  What happened to McG?  He was so great with that film, filling it with so much life and emotion.  Terminator Salvation, preposterous as it may be, was also darkly atmospheric and marginally entertaining.  Now, he’s here scraping the bottom of the barrel with This Means War, giving us no sanctuary from conventionalism, but instead, wooden planks to float on it.  Let it sink, McG.  Please.  Let it sink.

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