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20th Century Fox

This Means War

Movies | This film could be an example of 'what not to do' in a screenwriting class

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

There's no doubt that Reese Witherspoon has talent. Her comedy chops and screen presence have a disarmingly earnest effect that can be used to hilarious and endearing ends. None of this is on display in the romantic action comedy This Means War (rated PG-13 for sexual content). A brainless series of clichés, flat characters, and predictable plot turns, the film could be an example of "what not to do" in a screenwriting class.

The story launches with debonair CIA agents (and best friends), Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine), high atop a Hong Kong skyscraper. The agents attempt to apprehend an accented villain (Til Schweiger) whose crime we never know, but whose vengeance against Tuck and FDR is ignited when they kill his brother. Grounded for their troublemaking by their hard-nosed boss (a seriously slumming it Angela Bassett), the agents make separate plays for the same woman: Lauren (Witherspoon).

Tuck and FDR soon discover they're dating the same woman and agree to keep the knowledge a secret, proceeding to compete for Lauren's affections by exploiting covert CIA techniques. When the inevitable confrontation finally occurs and Lauren storms away, furious that both of her boyfriends were lying to her, it's hard to have sympathy for anyone.

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Abandoning the stylish control he mastered in the Charlie's Angels series, director McG employs messy camera techniques during the requisite action sequences, providing not a single adrenaline-fueled moment. A comedy without laughs and an action movie without excitement, This Means War builds its whole story up to a big question but abandons the effort required to make us care about the answer.

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