Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tonight's Movie: This Means War (2012)

Some critics haven't been very kind to THIS MEANS WAR, the new action-comedy-romance flick starring Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, and Tom Hardy. Speaking for myself, I smiled through most of the movie and had a grand time, and I'd happily watch it again.

Pine and Hardy play a pair of secret agents who, unbeknownst to each other, have each fallen hard for Witherspoon. She has no clue the two men know each other, and she particularly doesn't know that the men are putting all the tricks of their profession to use as they woo her while simultaneously trying to sabotage the competition. Meanwhile a dastardly criminal (Til Schweiger) bent on revenge is searching for the agents.

The film starts off with a nice set piece, showing the dashing, incredibly handsome agents at work and setting up the storyline with the villain. The movie has a nice sense of humor throughout, in both the action scenes and the interaction of the lead characters. The guys are gorgeous and funny -- and I love Hardy's British accent -- while the uncertain Witherspoon is cute, as usual; one touch I especially enjoyed is that Witherspoon's professional knowledge as a consumer products tester enables her to help save the day at the climax of the film's action.

The film is total escapist fare, in the mode of films such as MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005), DUPLICITY (2009), KNIGHT AND DAY (2010), and THE TOURIST (2010). Like those films, THIS MEANS WAR is a humorous romantic fantasy with impossibly attractive leads and nondisturbing make-believe violence. Viewers who have fun watching that type of movie may enjoy THIS MEANS WAR as much as I did.

It's perhaps worth noting that if this film were real life, Pine and Hardy would be creepy stalkers or voyeurs, but since this movie has no basis in reality, in the context of the film it's just fun.

As a movie buff I especially enjoyed a scene in a video store -- which is so nice and well stocked it proves the movie is a fantasy! I mean, multiple copies in stock of THE LADY VANISHES (1938) and ROPE (1948)? A video monitor showing a clip from HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943)? A poster of ROAD HOUSE (1948) displayed prominently in the center of the store? Talk about blissful alternative reality.

The film was directed by McG -- born Joseph McGinty Nichol -- whose previous films include WE ARE MARSHALL (2006). (He also directed the CHARLIE'S ANGELS films, but I won't hold that against him.) The movie runs 98 minutes. Look for Rosemary Harris and Angela Bassett in the supporting cast.

Parental advisory: This film was originally rated R due to Chelsea Handler's tasteless "jokes." A little of her goes a very long way. Thankfully the film was edited down so that it qualified for a PG-13. It's as close to R as a PG-13 can get, and I personally don't recommend it for the under-16 crowd.

My Twitter buddy Lou Lumenick of the New York Post notes some continuity problems in his negative review. I was fairly oblivious to those issues, although I did realize, as the film ended, that I'd seen stills (such as the one to the right) of scenes which didn't appear in the film. The ending was reshot as recently as last December. Some of the scenes appear to have been shot locally, in the Long Beach area.

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times seemed to enjoy the movie fairly well, and Leonard Maltin writes "How well you like the end result...will depend on how much you like the stars — and how hungry you are for escapist entertainment." I like the actors quite a lot, especially Tom Hardy, and I found this film a highly enjoyable Saturday matinee diversion.

The trailer can be seen at First Showing or the movie's official site.


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6:14 AM  

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