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The Spies Who Loved Mean

MOVIE REVIEW
This Means War (2012)

This-means-war-reese-witherspoon-tom-hardy-chris-pine
Kimberley French/20th Century Fox

If democracy ever comes to an end in the United States and future movie historians look back for the first indication that the fascists were taking over, “This Means War” will be a good place to start.

Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are lifelong besties who work for the C.I.A. — despite Tuck being British — but never mind. When they aren’t throwing Eurotrash villains from the top of Hong Kong skyscrapers, they are cleaning knives at their underground Batcave office in Los Angeles, to the great annoyance of their boss (Angela Bassett, stunning as ever but criminally underused). FDR is so much of a player that his apartment is built underneath a swimming pool. Tuck had a wife and kid once, but they got divorced. So, as FDR’s kindly grandmother (Rosemary Harris, of course) tells him, "That doesn’t count." As the thrills of seeing who has the bigger gun begin to pall, they decide to get back into the dating game.

Through a series of unbelievable coincidences, they both start dating Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), whose own bestie is Trish (Chelsea Handler). A product tester, Lauren knows everything there is to know about car headlights and frying pans. But she hasn’t been in the dating game for a while, either, and needs Trish’s noisy but constant encouragement to keep on seeing these two smooth-talking guys.

So what are two spies in love with the same woman to do? Are they to woo the lady with ridiculous presents and hand-written poetry and romantic getaways? Are they to stand underneath a balcony or send a singing telegram? Please. If they do something that sweet, the terrorists win. First Tuck and FDR both, separately, break into and bug her house. Then they use all the assets the C.I.A. has at its disposal to pull up every fact about Lauren’s life for use in dating chitchat. While they’re at it, they physically attack the other guy while he is on dates with Lauren. Nothing shows a woman how much you like her like tracking her car, tapping her phone and shooting the person she’s seeing with a tranquilizer dart.

Romantic comedies where two different men try desperately to impress the girl feel like artifacts from an alien planet compared to this. The set design, the sound, the staging — when it is in the service of soulless propaganda, who cares how good it is? In this movie women are prizes for men to fight over, and it’s meant to be funny that they wipe their asses with the constitution while they’re doing it. This means it’s completely unforgivable.

THIS MEANS WAR

Opens on Feb. 17 in the United States and on March 2 in Britain.

Directed by McG; written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Mr. Dowling and Marcus Gautesen; director of photography, Russell Carpenter; edited by Nicolas de Toth; music by Christophe Beck; production design by Martin Laing; costumes by Sophie de Rakoff; produced by Robert Simonds, James Lassiter, Will Smith and Mr. Kinberg; released by 20th Century Fox. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Reese Witherspoon (Lauren), Chris Pine (FDR Foster), Tom Hardy (Tuck), Til Schweiger (Heinrich), Angela Bassett (Collins), Rosemary Harris (Nana Foster), Chelsea Handler (Trish) and Abigail Leigh Spencer (Katie).

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