This Means War: Gorgeous People, Explosive Action, and a Rom-Com That Falls Flat on Its Face
Every rom-com from the Bible onward earnestly hinges on a single premise: Love conquers all. In some respects, This Means War tests that premise, forcing audiences to reconsider the line between honorable love and creepy obsession as handily as Sting's terrifying "Every Breath You Take."
In War, Reese Witherspoon plays Lauren, a beautiful, inexplicably undatable spinster who continually runs into her ex-boyfriend and his new fiancée while in the throes of publicly flaunting her aloneness. And so, through a dating profile set up by her married friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) and Hollywood happenstance, Lauren ends up on dates with not one but two gorgeous undercover CIA agents, Tuck and FDR, who happen to be partners and BFFs.
Naturally, Lauren is unaware of the covert love triangle she's stumbled into. Tuck (Tom Hardy) presents himself as a sensitive travel agent/part-time dad whose washboard abs neutralize his need to own more than one shirt at a time, and FDR (Chris Pine) is the smooth-talking cruise-ship captain with an irresistible children-of-the-corn stare.
Under most circumstances, two CIA agents hobby-stalking a pretty lady—tracking her social profiles online, bugging her house, covertly tagging her like a heifer—would be considered an obscene violation of personal privacy and the US Constitution. But it's okay because of the Patriot Act and because love conquers all (especially privacy and the Constitution!). With the bat of a few pretty eyelashes, love also easily conquers lying, divorce, and the small imperfections that physically perfect people claim to have in order to seem more relatable.
From time to time, FDR and Tuck tire of fighting over one woman long enough to hunt for a generically evil German who wants them dead. Occasional gunfights ensue. But more than explosive action and cheesy love scenes, it's the easy humor of Handler, Hardy, and Pine that whisks you along from scene to ethically questionable scene. One man ostentatiously adopts a dying dog to prove his compassion; the other annihilates a field of paintball-playing children to prove his virility. Witherspoon does a fine job of acting lonely without being particularly lovelorn, which keeps the tension tight while the men engage in a high-stakes game to win her affection.
As Lauren struggles with her real-world dilemma—two beautiful men want to fuck her silly and she doesn't know what to do about it—Trish suggests the obvious answer: Fuck them both (together, separately, sideways in a circus) to see who she's more compatible with. Lauren hems and haws. Trish, representing every woman who wants to fuck Pine and/or Hardy (together, separately, sideways in a circus), states the obvious: "You think Gloria Steinem sat in a jail cell so you could act like a little bitch?" You are a sexually liberated woman! Go! Fuck! Them! Both!
But it doesn't happen. In the end, War's wildly fluctuating morality becomes its downfall. We are asked to believe that a 21st-century love, with all its bells and whistles and high-tech spy gear, can trump the Constitution but can't handle the mundane reality of a woman who enjoys sex with multiple partners. And we don't. That's the precise moment (or lack thereof) that This Means War falls flat on its face.