REVIEW: This Means War

28 11 2012

Guilty pleasures.  We all have them, even people like me who put on the serious critic face and laud the potential contributions to cinema in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”  Mine happen to be romantic comedies, which don’t disgust me as much as most reviewers (or men, for that matter).  As long as I buy the chemistry and the formula isn’t totally cloying or transparent, I’ll generally find some enjoyment.

Maybe the auditorium of my tiny seat-back on the plane ride home from France made me a particular captive viewer, but I was totally enthralled by “This Means War.”  I found myself laughing at inappropriately loud levels and thus the victim of a number of sharply cutting glances from my mom.  For whatever reason, I was just totally operating on this movie’s wavelength.

Sure, it’s brutally corny at times.  (What rom-com isn’t these days?)  Some of the melding of action with the inherently chick flick core of the film doesn’t always function as smoothly as it should.  The relationships aren’t always totally believable, probably a victim of how they are written on the page.  However, in spite of all this, I had a good time and was willing to put a lot of my issues to rest.

The fun probably came from just how much I enjoy these three actors.  I will probably always view any Reese Witherspoon film through a rosy lens because of my well-documented crush on her since around, oh, 2001.  As Lauren, she finds herself in a familiar predicament for Reese Witherspoon characters – choosing between two men vying for her heart (“Water for Elephants,” “How Do You Know,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” have all hinged on a similar dilemma.)

The competition is all the fun as her suitors are best friends from their work in the CIA.  Chris Pine’s FDR is the more suave, rom-com jerk that the audience and the girl eventually come around to like.  But Tom Hardy’s Tuck is a quieter, more sensitive guy and proves to be an interesting antidote to the typical kind of guy that screws her over.  Hardy struggles a bit with the romantic side of Tuck, and it’s clear that he’s best off in manly man movies like “Bronson” and “Lawless.”  In the latter movie, Jessica Chastain is the one who has to court him, and that seems more logical.

Oh, and as Lauren struggles to decide as she dates both men, we are treated to a running commentary of Chelsea Handler as her sister Trish.  She brings an incredibly beautiful sardonic and deprecating wit to “This Means War” that most genre flicks lack these days, voicing the frustrations we often have as viewers.  Leave it to Handler, one of the funniest women in the world right now, to turn the typical groans into side-splitting laughs.  B+


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