This Means War introduces its first recognizable cast member in Angela Bassett during the first scene, her appearance on a McG movie being akin to using an American flag as a dishcloth. At least The Green Lantern waited thirty minutes to waste her talents. She plays agent Collins in the CIA, babysitting two men, Franklin ‘FDR’ Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy). In Hong Kong, they’re instructed to get their target Heinrich (Til Schweiger) and his suitcases and to keep this operation covert. They fail there, bathing the party with glass and bullets but they kill Heinrich’s brother, save each other’s lives and they’re best friend’s forever!
Just get to the cheesy part already. Since Collins condemns both FDR and Tuck to desk work, Tuck realizes how lonely he is. So a spy. Decides. To enter online dating. Coincidentally, Trish, (Chelsea Handler) a housewife from Los Angeles also creates an account but for best friend, product testing supervisor named Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon). She’s the kind of beautiful woman who catches herself wearing sweatpants in public just for her ex-boyfriend Steve to spot her, infuriating even on other actresses who ace this charade.
Lauren enters into permanent dress up mode and has a coffee date with Tuck but she walks into a video store and meets FDR. A video store is a place where humans rent or buy physical copies of movies or television shows for ten dollars or more. Lauren eventually dates both men and they discover this fact. But in an exaggerated for of the ‘hero’ in romantic comedies, they break their friendship, waste American tax dollars to survey her likes and dislikes, snoop on each other and literally annihilate each other’s chances with her. Some CGI ensues.
While we’re at it, this movie fails to pass off some of Tuck’s traits. He’s the more virile looking man – he has no neck! – and wears his tattoos like a shirt but for some reason we’re supposed to believe that he hasn’t been to da club or have had sexual relations with anyone after his divorce. Hardy is Bradley Cooper’s replacement for the role. It’s all right if he’s the poor man’s Michael Fassbender but being the poor man’s Brad Cooper is beneath him. Anyway, Tuck’s sweetness and fun side is in his deck of cards while somehow FDR has the edge in this competition by being arrogant.
This movie does have some aesthetic value, appearing expensive but is barely on the good side of the border between flashy and tacky. Every office must have stainless walls, minimalist logos, state of the art technology. Apartments have large objects reflecting character’s taste to pass off their credit card bourgeois economic status as quirk, even for the spies who are so well-traveled that they’re barely home to decorate. Tuck can apparently afford a butch gay interior designer even with assumed child support payments. The decision to deck out the three main character’s spaces also means that they have to bring Trish in as the dowdy one by comparison. This taste is also reflected in the movie’s arty references. I like the already dated second meet cute – they’re showing classical movies in a mainstream video store! – because it involves Lauren saying that Rebecca and Notorious ARE Hitchcock’s best movies. FDR is also one foot within her heart by feigning a love for early 20th century art, although change Gustav Klimt to Fernand Leger and we got ourselves a deal.
I also like the movie’s banter, especially when Hardy doesn’t overplay his lines. It’s also delightful to spot supporting cast members like Rosemary Harris, Jenny Slate and Abigail Spencer. I’m especially partial to Handler and yes, I have willfully let her corrupt my definition of comedy. I almost thought she wrote the script until I realized that there were no jokes about the female anatomy. Her rapport with Witherspoon is clear during their dialogue. I don’t even care if she promotes herself as subversive only to sell out because she thinks that’s what people in movies do. This is McG we’re talking about. I’ve already implied that I can’t like this beyond guilty pleasure. But I see it as if McG and Witherspoon called CAA and a friend to make a movie and tell jokes that the audience will laugh at and forget as soon as they leave the door. It’s not worth thirteen fifty but I got the fun that its cast and crew evinces. 2.5/5
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Louise Fletcher in the film adaptation of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” called Cruel Intentions. Yeah she’s in this movie, undeservedly provoking Sebastian Valmont’s (Ryan Phillipe) misanthropy, one of the fakest things in the film. The Oscar winner’s got at two scenes, least five lines and loses meatier parts of the film to Christine Baranski or Swoosie Kurtz. Her role is more symbolic, as her century-old estate is the setting for Sebastian, her favourite nephew to clandestinely seduce Kansas born Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon). So yes, I haven’t forgotten that this movie is about the kids.
Yes, this movie asks us to make too many leaps of logic, as Roger Kumble‘s script makes the characters swear too much but oh, they’re private school educated, which accounts for all the witty comebacks. And that their Calvin Klein, minimalist chic makes the actors look like their real ages as opposed to their characters who are supposedly 17. Or that all the rich adolescents in 1999 had therapists and wore two layers during the summer or wore tighty whities or had invisible parents. And that they all suddenly looked younger by the time they wore their private school uniforms.
But I still prefer this over Dangerous Liaisons, since Christopher Hampton’s script is still more affected and mannered than this newer version. The chateaus of France became estates and penthouses inhabited by New York debutants, its gardens turned into Central Park. My generation has probably grown up to be slightly ashamed of loving Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s turn as Kathryn Merteuil, but she matches Philippe’s smugness with her raunchy side, fighting her sexual desire for him and chooses to destroy him instead. Besides, she’s probably the only actress who can dress like Audrey Hepburn and still doesn’t look insipid subvert her character’s mean streak. And Philippe makes Sebastian appeal to Annette instead of simply seducing her, their growing feelings towards each other being both a product of rich man’s cabin fever and that she can actually see sincerity and fragility pouring through, bringing in the change that both he and Kathryn were afraid of.