'This Means War' Review: Spy Games Gum Up Love Triangle, Not Star Chemistry

Both “Coriolanus” and “This Means War” arrive in theaters this weekend. The former is actually about war. The latter doesn’t involve battle sequences but a rivalry between two men of action. The word “War” sounds better on a movie marquee, so a fight between two friends for the love of a woman is amplified to attract more ticket buyers.

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“War’s” key relationship is the bromance between CIA agents FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy). Foster is the irresponsible one–a bachelor prone to one-night stands and lousy pick-up lines. Tuck is the sensitive soul – a divorced father who longs for his one true love and feels no need to settle.

In his quest for female companionship, Tuck sets up a profile on a dating website where he encounters a woman named Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). Of course, neither of these good-looking individuals would need to visit such a site in real life, but this story requires you to suspend disbelief throughout its 98-minute running time.

A date between these two lonely hearts goes remarkably well, but Lauren decides to end it quickly so she can visit the video store– continue to suspend disbelief here– where she meets FDR. Pine’s character was waiting there in case he needed to rescue Tuck from a bad date.

Soon enough, both men are dating the same woman- a coincidence that becomes apparent to them in one of those corny scenes where both men turn around their computers and reveal that–SURPRISE–Lauren’s been spending time with them both.

The gentlemen come up with an agreement where they both plan to date Lauren but hide the arrangement from her. Of course, these characters have never seen a movie where this plot device has ended badly so they naively agree to it.  They also decide against undercutting their competition–a rule that is quickly broken. By both of them. Repeatedly.

The story has fun with the ways that these men shortchange each other. A sleeping dart here. A surveillance camera there. And that’s where the story hits its stride. It’s fun watching each of these two charismatic charmers attempt to woo the object of their affection, despite the obstacles that have been placed in their path.

Of course, the story isn’t deep on any level. A subplot about the CIA trying to locate a known criminal feels tacked on, as if the writers needed to add something about what the CIA actually does.

But the three leads do enough to make this story worth watching. It’s a light-hearted, superficial film in the same way that the Tom Hanks/ Julia Roberts  film “Larry Crowne” was last year. Both of these films are driven by star power but are superficially satisfying and offer a few genuinely funny moments.

“This Means War” has its share of obvious weaknesses. Lame jokes that bog down the story. Coincidences that would never occur in real life. Chelsea Handler.

But the charm of its leads and a few funny moments combine to make this an enjoyable film. “This Means War” is a pleasant enough way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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