Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Video Review: Surprise, "This Means War" Stinks

Yes, Chris Pine has a swimming pool in his ceiling that he
stocks with hot women. Needless to say, CIA gigs pay well.
This Means War mostly sucks. It’s an action comedy with sporadically tepid action and a modicum of lukewarm laughs, and it fails to offer even one standout scene. Still, the film is inoffensive, easy-to-follow and features three attractive and charming leads, so it’s not a total bust. It’s just the type of movie that’s best viewed as ancillary stimulation while you’re busy doing something else like building furniture from IKEA, writing holiday cards, or, I don’t know… cross-stitching.

Sadly, I was not multitasking during my viewing of This Means War, which focuses on playboy FDR (Chris Pine) and sensitive Tuck (Tom Hardy), two best buddy CIA agents vying for the affection of Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), unbeknownst to her. Since the movie had my attention, I was able to notice several indicators that the filmmakers were most likely keenly aware of the film’s destiny as nothing more than background filler.

Take for instance a car chase sequence in which Tuck tells Lauren to take the wheel so he can assist FDR in shooting at their pursuers, but instead of saying “Take the wheel, Lauren,” he says “Take the wheel, Reese.” Then there’s a gag at the end of the movie, where FDR reveals he once slept with Tuck’s baby-mama (whom Tuck has resumed a relationship with). On its face that would seem fine, except for the fact that it is strongly hinted earlier in the film that this woman is FDR’s cousin. 

"Steal a lame action comedy? Don't mind if I do."
I like to imagine that someone caught these issues, but that, when brought up to director McG, he responded by saying, “Seriously? Nobody’s going to remember Reese’s character name – I’m directing this movie and couldn’t tell you the name. I’m not making Tom do another audio dub. It’s pointless. And we need a last gotcha line in this thing, because audiences, they love those kickers. We don’t actually come out and explicitly say the woman is related to Chris’ character, so let’s just roll with it. I mean do you really expect people to use simple context clues here when they’ll probably be 80 to 90% preoccupied with something else like making homemade guacamole or playing Jenga?”

That’s really my take away from this movie, but I guess it’s worth pointing out that Chelsea Handler does some nice work here as Lauren’s vulgar and encouraging friend Trish. Any humor in this thing is mostly due to her, and IMDB indicates she adlibbed much of her lines, so nice work there.

And, can someone please explain to me what is happening with Angela Bassett’s career? She’s a fantastic actress, and I know good roles are hard to come by for women as they age, but the last few roles I’ve seen her in aren’t just bad; they’re so paper-thin and throwaway that it’s insulting to her talent. As in The Green Lantern (check my review here), Bassett is cast as a high-ranking official in a government agency, and yet the film totally drops the character, giving her even less to do that that film did.

McG and the screenwriters did Angela Bassett a disservice 
here. The hair and wardrobe people -- they did nice work.

Looking at her upcoming slate, it looks like she could be in store for more of the same, as she’ll be playing the Secret Service director in the Gerard Butler thriller Olympus Has Fallen. What gives here? How exactly did the star of What’s Love Got to Do With It, Waiting to Exhale, and how Stella Got her Groove Back become typecast as a government agent head (a role she also filled in an even more nonexistent part in Mr. and Mrs. Smith)? I know she’s in her 50s, but she’s got chops and is still stunning, and I have to think her name still has some cache with audiences. Somebody needs to give this woman a meaty part on a cable drama or something. Sigh… at least her other upcoming film Black Nativity seems a bit more interesting and challenging.

OK, I’m done with my Angela Bassett rant. Getting back on point: This Means War is a bad film, but would do in a pinch if you need something to “watch” while e-filing your taxes. D-