'This Means War' Latest Rom-Com to Devalue Relationships

If romantic comedies have taught us anything, it’s that the best way to woo a woman is to snoop around and learn what she likes best, and then pretend to enjoy all of those things.

It’s a lesson told time and again in romantic comedies – think “Groundhog’s Day,” “What Women Want,” “Everyone Says I Love You” and the new film “This Means War,” opening tomorrow.

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In “War,” Tom Hardy and Chris Pine play super spies vying for the affections of the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). To win her heart, they use all the spy gadgets at their disposal to learn her passions and then pretend they share them. Mel Gibson’s “What Women Want” had an even easier gimmick – the main character could read women’s minds.

If only romance was that simple in real life.

On screen, it works like a charm more often than not, and that’s a shame since it doesn’t speak well of the female protagonists. Is Witherspoon’s character in “War” so shallow that she wants to meet a man whose interests mirror her own down to the letter?

Apparently so, since the film’s love triangle stands as the narrative’s driving force.

It’s insulting all the same, reducing the complexities of relationships to a bullet point list. And it makes the screen heroines look pretty darn desperate. Do screenwriters assume women carry around a check list on their dates and keep trying until they meet the men who match up best with them? Didn’t the great “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry dated his doppelganger (Janeane Garofalo) put this silly notion to rest once and for all?

We’re not talking the core elements of a healthy romance, like tenderness, integrity and honor. Those matter, but they’re not what these films care about.

“This Means War” is a broad comedy, and its directed by McG who previously gave us the “Charlie’s Angels” reboot. It’s a mistake to take serious lessons from a film like “War” or the fluffy rom-com genre, but the movies themselves would be better served by reflecting the realities of dating. That would leave plenty of space for both frivolity and a palpable sense that we’ve been there, done that in the romantic trenches.

But it’s part of a bigger picture where lonely, often pathetic female characters can’t be happy unless they meet their mirror-like mates. That’s a lousy takeaway for female movie goers still hoping to meet Mr. Right.