Review: This Means War


It is possible that I open all McG directed films the same way: by making fun of his name. I don’t have the time to look back now, nor do I actually care so I’m just going to go with this approach again.

Who lets someone whose name is McG direct a multi-million dollar film? Music videos? I can totally see that, but a big budget motion picture? No way. Even if his name wasn’t McG, the cacophony of poorly made films he’s directed should have put him on the black list at some point. Yet here we are. A man named McG has once again delivered a movie with big name stars (what are you doing here Tom Hardy!?) and a big studio budget. How can this keep happening!?

You know what, McG? This means war.

This Means War
Director: McG
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: February 17, 2012

This Means War is supposedly a romantic comedy for both sexes. The hook for the ladies is the romantic side of things where Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) is in a tough pickle because two ridiculously gorgeous men — FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) — are courting her. The hook for the guys is that these two are actually a super spy duo who drive fast cars, fight and explode things. The two are best friends and when they find out that they’re dating the same girl they agree to a “gentleman’s agreement” in which they use the CIA’s time and money by foiling each others attempts to bed Lauren.

While there are attempted hooks for both males and females in this film what is really missing is a hook for anyone who wants to watch an enjoyable movie. We’ll start with the simple fact that while the film clearly isn’t meant to be taken serious, it’s really disturbing how flippantly these two guys invade Lauren’s life and start spying on her. While the movie tries to make it all seem like fun and games a lot of the gags get buried in the fact that it’s really creepy what these guys are doing — and the fact that they aren’t funny gags in the first place. To add to this the relationship between Lauren and both guys goes doesn’t feel like something the two of them should go to so much trouble for. It’s so annoying when a romantic movie simply tells us that two people should be in love with each other instead of actually creating characters that you believe are in love with each other.

That’s not where the poor relationships end, however. On the guy side of things Pine and Hardy have about as much chemistry going on as a high school where all the science teachers are out sick. The two of them are supposed to be a well oiled team and deliver a bit of bromance for us male watchers, but all we get is the most awkward Hardy performance ever created and Pine looking like a well chiseled mannequin. Toss in action sequences directed and plotted by someone whose name could only be McG, and you’ve got a really bad action movie trying to hide behind an already poor romantic comedy.

I will give the film some credit for not being as horribly atrocious as it could have been. There are a few bright spots here and there. One is Chelsea Handler, who plays Laruen’s sister. Clearly there so someone can deliver the raunchy sex jokes that are supposed to make the film edgy she actually does that quite well. In fact when the film is ignoring its idiotic set-up and not trying to pull the guys in it can be pretty funny. There’s actually a really great single tracking shot where the two spies plant cameras throughout Lauren’s house as she dances around oblivious to their actions. In a film that’s routinely poorly executed it’s a striking good spot in both direction and execution. You can probably watch it somewhere on YouTube and find Handler’s raunchy comedy anywhere, so these aspects hardly make the movie worth the price of admission.

The final nail in this coffin that already has too many nails in it is how dated the film feels. I know the script was drifting around for a while and that Fox kept the film shelved for a solid bit of time as well, but a lot of the jokes and conversations feel like they were relevant in 2005, not today. That might not seem that long ago, but cracking wise about online dating isn’t really funny anymore. Almost nothing is worse than comedy that is out of sync with its audience.

While I can’t say I didn’t laugh at points in This Means War I can say that I didn’t enjoy myself for most of the movie. While the combination of romantic comedy and action is one I’d be happy to see (I think the underrated Knight and Day did it decently) it’s definitely not executed well here. Normally, I’d close this review with a pun about how McG declared war on good movies or something, but I already blew my bad joke load in the opening so now I’m stuck. I guess all I can say is that this is a bad movie. Don’t see it.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.