The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This Means War

Just try. Do something a little different. If it fails, at least you made an attempt and didn't go for the same old, same old formula. Here we are again at the romantic comedy where humor and schmaltzy love stories go to die in mediocrity. If you try, and it's a little goofy, even dumb at times, at least the effort was made. Take 2012's This Means War. Goofy? Yes. Dumb? At times. But it's fun, and it's different. I'm a cheap date. That's all I'm looking for.

Working on a case in Hong Kong, C.I.A. field agents F.D.R. (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are best friends and have been for years to the point where they're like family. FDR is a bit of a ladies man while Tuck is divorced/separated from his wife and their 7-year old son. Tuck though decides he wants more, a meaningful relationship and hits it off immediately with product tester Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) on a date set up by an online dating site. Saying goodbye to Tuck, Lauren meets FDR down the street coincidentally at a video store, and they too hit it off. It isn't long before the two CIA agents figure out they're dating the same girl. Who will get Lauren? It's spy vs. spy.

Because a last name is unnecessary, director McG (of Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation fame) certainly has some fun with this one. As I mentioned earlier, 'War' is goofy, dumb and even a little stupid at times, but it commits to being all those things. This is no hardcore story of CIA agents looking for love, the opening over-the-top action scene on a Hong Kong skyscraper's roof points to that. This is a world where well-trained, world class secret agents use all sorts of government software to track each other down, track a pretty girl down, monitor each others' dates. It is goofy, dumb and a little stupid at times, and that's not a bad thing. It owns up to that. No message here, no bigger picture about secret agents in love. Just two old friends going toe to toe for a girl....oh, and they're epically talented government killing machines. How can that not be enjoyable?

So as a romantic comedy on steroids, 'War' works in a lot of ways. Two of the bright young stars in Hollywood, Pine and Hardy are perfectly cast alongside each other. Their friendship of many years -- not to mention working as partners in the field -- seems genuine. They jab and mock and ridicule each other like only close friends can. They compete at everything so when they meet a girl like Witherspoon's Lauren, it's game on. The biggest laughs come from this competition, each agent trying to sabotage the other. FDR sets the sprinklers off in Tuck's loft at a romantic dinner. Tuck drills FDR with a knock-out dart from across a street as he makes a move on Lauren. Pine and Hardy are perfect together, and Witherspoon is about as adorably cute as you'd expect. She has some funny scenes with Chelsea Handler as Trish, Lauren's sister(?)/friend, confidant and adviser in love.

As for the CIA agent storyline, we get a pretty straightforward, nuts and bolts type story. FDR and Tuck are after one bad German dude, Heinrich (Til Schweiger), who is up to no good. What exactly? It's enough to know that's he up to no good, and now he's looking for revenge against these two CIA agents. Any more information would just be wasted. The action sequences are ridiculously over the top and ultra-choreographed, slow motion galore. They're the type of scenes where a car explodes when it flips because....well, cars look cool when they explode on impact. The scenes are action-packed but funny too, Tuck always needing to use FDR's pistol clips in the midst of a chaotic gun battle. The focus is obviously on the love triangle, but that whole secret agent thing is pretty cool too.

Through all the goofiness that ensues, I found myself really liking this movie. It sounds simple, but I liked the characters, and too often in rom-coms, that's left by the wayside. Characters become cliches, stereotypes or something nasty in between. I liked all the characters here. FDR realizes he genuinely likes Lauren and doesn't intend to play her. Lauren is the same, looking for a good normal guy, and Tuck's looking for love. I'm a huge Tom Hardy fan, and he was my favorite here, especially his background with his ex-wife (Abigail Spencer) and son, Joe (John Paul Ruttan). Nothing groundbreaking, but it is different from the usual romantic comedy. It is a good, old-fashioned popcorn movie. Easily digestible and fun from start to finish.

This Means War <---trailer (2012): ***/****

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