Occasionally, my theater (Empire Theatres in Sydney) does something right. A great example is that this week – which just happened to be the week I would be away camping all weekend and wouldn’t be able to go to a movie – they brought in a sneak preview of This Means War. So now not only am I able to get a review out this week, but I’m able to get it out BEFORE the film is wide-released, just like a real critic. The story:
Two CIA agents discover they’re daring the same woman and wage an all-out war to sabotage the other’s efforts to win her heart.
… brought to mind a few other movies, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (for the turning on each other factor) and True Lies (for the date spying/sabotage factor). Fortunately, it turned out not to be a annoying rehash but a hilarious and actioney adventure that was so cleverly written that I ended up jotting down like fifteen quotes.
There is one weird thing about this movie that I would like to note, though. It’s preceded by an animated short about Scrat, that little squirrel rat thing from the Ice Age movies. I love Scrat, but I couldn’t enjoy the short because it made me worry that I had accidentally wandered into a theater showing a children’s movie. Thankfully, there were helicopters and explosions shortly after as the boys, Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) went about their “covert mission” to capture a terrorist (Til Schweiger), which they understand mean “shoot everyone and drop the guy’s brother off a high rise into traffic.”
What? It’s what James Bond does, right? And we are wearing his suits.
I assumed this “smash n’ splode” attitude would just be how things are at the CIA in this movie, but instead the writers pull a The Other Guys move. Agent Collins (Angela Bassett) grounds both agents, making them do desk work as punishment for starting what will surely be a terrorist vendetta.
Also: no dessert for a week.
In their regular lives Tucker (whose cover is as a travel agent) has a young son (John Paul Ruttan) and an estranged wife (Abigail Spencer) and has to pretend he’s a nonviolent sort who just lets himself be bitch-slapped by douchebag karate dads. FDR, meanwhile, is your typical horndog, chasing and nailing anything in heels.
He has a ceiling pool, for God’s sake, and presumably a hired model to swim in it day and night.
In their boredom, Tuck turns to internet dating and FDR to lurking around the corner as backup during Tuck’s dates, because as FDR says: “Half of those girls pee standing up and the other half are on our watch list.” This is how they end up accidentally meeting the same woman: Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), the chief tester at a Consumer Reports-like organization. I assumed Lauren’s job would be incidental to the plot, but it’s the reason she keeps dating them: she’s product testing men!
If that’s not a job any woman would kill for, I don’t know what is.
The boys quickly discover they’re dating the same woman and lay down ground rules: they won’t tell her they know each other, they’ll let her decide between them, and NO interfering in each other’s dates. Of course, you know which rule gets thrown out in short order. They decide they don’t want the other sleeping with “their” girl, and with the help of a team of support personnel who think they’re working to capture the missing terrorist, they sabotage each other with reckless abandon.
Whoopsie, my elbow accidentally hit the control for your sprinkler system! Which I hacked into…
And just so we don’t start thinking of Lauren as a ho-bitch for stringing them both along, she struggles to figure out which guy she likes best and whether dating them both at once is wrong. She digs through their strengths and flaws (apparently FDR has tiny hands and Tuck is too safe) with the help of her completely hilarious friend Trish (Chelsea Handler).
LAUREN: “I think I’m going to hell.
TRISH: “You’re not going to hell. But if you are, I’ll be there to pick you up.”
The guys, who are listening to her every word, seem almost psychic in their choice of dates, which only confuses her more. Still, she’s not exactly innocent in all of this, which is why I think it’s hilarious that SHE gets mad at THEM when she finds out they know each other, even though she she still had no idea that they’re both spies who have been watching her every move for weeks… at least until the thing with the terrorist blows up in all of their faces.
FDR: “I’m not really a cruise ship captain.”
LAUREN: “No shit!”
It’s not until the final scenes that Lauren makes her decision, which is good, but the way they set it up – like the boys are trying to call a dog to them to see who it likes better – is not good. It’s also pretty obvious (if you watch the whole thing, not so much from the trailer) who she’s going to pick. So it’s formulaic and predictable, and I don’t think either of the principals are attractive, but ask me if I care. I do not, because the movie was so funny that I can easily overlook a few minor flaws like that. I want to watch it again, and then send McG a thank you card for the awesome Valentine’s Day present.