This Means War

Judging by the evidence, it isn’t easy making a good romantic comedy, even if it has a high-concept premise like this one: two best friends (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) who put their lives on the line as CIA operatives fall in love, quite by chance, with the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). This unforeseen rivalry escalates to the point that they summon all the technology (and manpower) at their command to engage in a massive game of one-upmanship, while the woman in question remains blissfully unaware of what’s going on.

Such a movie depends on the charisma of its stars and a certain lightness of touch. Witherspoon has her part down. She’s bright and fun, and turns to her (inevitable) best friend for advice, in this case Chelsea Handler, whose raunchy dialogue was apparently toned down to get the movie a PG-13 rating. Pine and Hardy fill their roles serviceably well; it’s easy to see why Witherspoon is attracted to them both, and they’re credible as rough-and-ready agents who would take a bullet for each other.

Tom Hardy and Chris Pine in This Means War

How well you like the end result, credited to screenwriters Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, from a story by Dowling and Marcus Gautesen, will depend on how much you like the stars—and how hungry you are for escapist entertainment. Director McG certainly keeps things moving. I was ready to go along for the ride, there not being a great deal at stake, but I lost heart, and interest, as the proceedings grew sillier with each new scene. (I would like to find the video store where Pine meets Witherspoon and monitors are showing films like Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait…but I wouldn’t take the actress’ assessment of Hitchcock films too seriously.)

Still, moviegoers crave light entertainment, especially with a romantic angle, and This Means War may be just good enough to please its target audience…at least until something better comes along.