Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris
Written by: Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Timothy Dowling and Marcus Gautesen
Directed by: McG
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language
Running Time: 98
Date: 02/14/2012
IMDB

This Means War (2012)

1 Star (out of 4)

Anti-'War' Protest

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hollywood usually designs its love triangles more along the lines of Isosceles than Equilateral. It must be absolutely clear which two partners the audience is supposed to root for, and the third is usually painted as slimy or annoying.

If the partners are all equal, as they are in the new This Means War, it's problematic.

The movie therefore strives to solve problems of script rather than problems of character. Perhaps even worse, if the partners are equal, the middle character -- in this case product tester Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) -- comes across like an indecisive idiot.

It begins as secret agents and best friends FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) make a mess of their latest assignment, leaving an angry gangster (Til Schweiger) seeking revenge.

Grounded and bored, the dreamy, romantic Tuck joins a dating site. FDR, skilled a pick-up artist, scoffs as such devices.

Meanwhile, Lauren has one of those annoying movie "best friends" (Chelsea Handler), whose only concern is for the main character's romantic and/or sex life. She signs Lauren up for the same dating site.

Tuck meets Lauren, and their date is a hit. Unfortunately, FDR also spies Lauren later the same day. She rebuffs him, and he's fascinated.

Both agents use all the technology and information at their disposal to begin spying on Lauren, and subsequently turn that information into competitive dating tips.

No one seems to care about the illegal and immoral side to all this, least of all director McG, a former music video maker.

McG (Charlie's Angels, TerminatorSalvation) is sometimes quite good at action sequences; he prefers a slick, swooping, single-shot style.

Unfortunately, only one good scene turns up here: both agents secretly slip through Lauren's house, planting bugs while she cluelessly bounces around to a hip-hop tune.

Otherwise, the junky action scenes ignore all laws of space and time, jumping around like dizzy mosquitoes.

Conversely, McG's weakness has always been character and story, and since that makes up about 80 percent of this movie, we're left stranded.

The conversations in this movie are dreadfully forced and shrill, not helped by the off-kilter, arrhythmic editing.

It's a poorly made movie, to be sure, but worst of all is the fact that Lauren is such a passive character, cheerfully and unquestioningly giving up her privacy and freedom in the name of "love."

And it's dismaying that Witherspoon, a once tough and promising actress, plays her.

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