A clever refreshing comedy This Means War is almost put in jeopardy by Chelsea Handler (Trish) in a supporting, but crucial role. She has the best lines but throws them away with a stiff delivery and with an attempt to be nonchalant so as to underplay her dialogue.
This technique works on talk shows but not on the big screen. Yes, not hammering the jokes is a good approach to comedy but a talented comedian needs energy even when trying to allow the words to be funny while not trying to be funny. Handler's attempt to be cool falls flat and takes air, by that I mean timing, out of what the team of Witherspoon, Pine and Hardy have created.
Reese Witherspoon (Lauren) is her darling self and at times a bit too darling, but she is so talented she can be the darling 24/7 and pull it off. She should have given acting lessons to Handler. Chris Pine (FDR) and Tom Hardy (Tuck) who play CIA spies are movie star handsome as well as credible in their performances. They have the energy Handler lacks and create a believable friendship.
To begin the film a CIA involvement is thrown in for intrigue but the movie really begins when both men survey a dating site and discover a stunning blonde, Lauren, in a rather compromising position. The ad for Lauren's dating appeal was created by bff Trish without Lauren's knowledge. It turns both men on. They make a Gentleman's Agreement along with a macho handshake to simultaneously pursue Lauren and to let the best man win.
Alas, each man covertly assigns a team of spies to watch Lauren while she is being courted by the other man. She is shadowed, filmed, trailed, tricked, reconed and droned while oblivious to it all. She does not realize she is being pursued by two men who are friends and who have made a deal to vie for her affection, but their friendship comes first. Essentially she is a pawn for their testosterone, for their chauvinism, for their egos. She cannot discover their Gentleman's Agreement or they fear they will both lose her. Enfin Lauren develops serious feelings for them both and has a sexual encounter with one of them. This very stilted lovemaking is filmed by the spy team of the other operative. Director McG choked here by filming this as a posed, awkward scene. With all the frenzy around this plot, I longed for a passionate love scene. Nada. Instead Lauren is posed on a table as though she is modeling underwear instead of about to devour FDR.
If the writing were not truly funny this film would not work, but Timothy Dowling, Simon Kinberg, Marcus Gaulesen who wrote the story make this film fly. As well as the fine performances of Witherspoon, Pine and Hardy. McG's direction works except he should have had a closer eye on Handler and given her some help. Bottom line her flat performance was his responsibility to direct and to correct.
Nevertheless I would make a b line to this romcom, but not allow Handler ,the aspiring queen of put downs, put down your interest in and enjoyment of this film. Ignore her attempts to be cool and allow the fond memories of the other actors and good writing make you smile and remember the times you, too, had an affair with two men or two women at the same time without one of them knowing about the other. This happens all the time and here we are able to laugh about it. Shame is for prudes.
"This is a mistake," Lauren says to FDR who replies, "I don't believe in mistakes. It's the mistakes who make us who we are."
This film is for risk takers who live and who love the outrageous.
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