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May 29, 2023

This Means War: Movie Review

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski

Bernie said:

I think that I may have mentioned before that I have never voted for the winning candidate in any presidential election since Jimmy Carter won in 1976. That's eight elections and 32 years of taxation without representation as I see it. There are a lot of reasons that led to this sad state of affairs, including a surprising number of affairs that led to the reasons that I could not see eye to eye with some of the candidates. Admittedly I've gotten a bit more conservative as I've gotten older, but not as much as you might imagine. Still, with eight straight selections of the losing candidate, I figure I could save everybody a lot of misery if they would just simply ask me who I'm going to vote for. Then everybody could just go home wait for election night and vote for the other guy -- save time, save money, save a lot of aggravation.

While I seem inversely accurate in politics, I am definitely versely accurate with movie reviews. You may remember that I was able to accurately warn you not to go see Skyline, and saved you from the embarrassment of destroying your brain on The Expendables.

What with my being older than dirt, I know that I can be considered a stick in the mud, and indeed when I look at movies, I usually have a lower tolerance for gratuitous stuff, be it sex, drugs, violence or vulgarity, than most movie critics. I mean movie critics can like the most obnoxious things and say stuff like "mesmerizing," or "grand spectacle," or "visionary." One critic actually said of Skyline: "...delivers all the Saturday night whizz-bang and Sunday morning brain-ripping you could want." Even my weeknight whizz never got that banged, and brain-ripping is not something you really want done to your own brain, is it?

I mention all this because This Means War got absolutely slaughtered by the critics. I can't think of a movie where the critics got so vile in their criticism since Boat Trip way back in 2003. ("If Boat Trip were a skin disease, you'd have whatever limb it was found on amputated at the base," said one critic of that movie.) They were pretty merciless in their criticism of the writing, the directing and the acting, and perhaps deservedly so.

Admittedly, This Means War is a movie that I wished would have carried an X-rating, because there is no excuse for anyone under the age of 30 to see this movie. It's not dirty or vulgar or violent. It has a PG-13 rating from MPAA, and indeed, there is no nudity, not overly much vulgarity, and the violence is all slapstick type stuff. But it is so devoid of any kind of reasonable or remotely realistic morality that you just don't want kids anywhere near it. In this movie, sex, greed, selfishness and deceit are virtues and love is a magic state in which sex, greed, selfishness and deceit are married and live happily ever after in an unhealthy ménage a quatre.

Two CIA agents (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine) fall for the same girl (Reese Witherspoon) and engage in a "gentlemanly competition" for her affections. That's all you really need to know about the plot, because that's as deep as it gets.

Now you may think that because it is morally bankrupt and shallow I didn't like it. However, remember my presidential voting record. Although I think that no young person should see this movie, if you allow that this movie aspires to be nothing more than a COMEDY, then this was actually a very funny movie. In fact, I've not been to a comedy in a long time that did not rely on farting, pissing and vomiting for the laughs, and there was not some kind of contest to see how offensive the language could be.

I know that I'm going to get skewered for this, but this film reminded me in a positive way of some the "adult" comedies back in the day of Jack Lemmon, or going back further to the films like Topper(1937), films that were called "sophisticated." They were stories that were unrealistic and dealt with topics that adults could find amusing.

This Means War is no great movie, and must be taken with a very large grain of salt, but it is funny, and ultimately, comedies are measured by how funny they are. I won't buy the DVD, and I can't tell you that you have to go see this one, but I bet if you go, you'll laugh.

Sand said:

Probably I would not have been lobbying to see this movie if our grand-daughter had not arranged for her equally nine-and-some-year-old pal to arrive at the house at 8 am and stay all day. But given that she had, being elsewhere seemed like a good idea. I checked the movie listings, and This Means War was the lesser of evils. I could eat a breakfast of tomato juice and cottage cheese, and fill up on popcorn, have a later lunch of more healthy food. Deal. Done.

Chris Pine is pretty, great eyes, attitude-laden, yeah, nice. Reese Witherspoon is cute, a bit less witless-acting than many in her cohort, so okay. Tom Hardy -- well, he was attractive in Inception, so I couldn't quarrel with wanting to see him again.

This Means War is about two CIA agents who find themselves dating the same woman, trying to woo her from behind their civilian personas, trying to sabotage each other's wooing with their CIA expertise. Yes, that's the plot. We add a little danger with a foreign crime boss wanting to rub the boys out, but that's kind of secondary until the last fifteen minutes of the show.

Did the audience like it? Admittedly, I have never before heard an audience laugh so loudly during a feature film. Never.

Did I like it? Over all, yeah, mostly. I did laugh, hard at times.

As a viewer, I felt that Chris Pine and Tom Hardy were being thrown onto the screen as visual attraction to draw me in. Yes, that worked, much to my annoyance. They're a handsome pair of men, and their interaction as CIA partners and friends was the highlight of the movie. Their dialog with each other was funny and engaging.

However, for me, the jarring aspect in the film was Lauren's (Witherspoon) friendship with Trish (Chelsea Handler). Trish, though sort-of happily married (she easily and repeatedly insinuates that her husband is of little worth), advises Lauren to throw caution and any sort of morality to the winds, and date and have sex with both the men to whom she is attracted. Foul-mouthed, injudicious, and morally objectionable, Trish is the garbage can of this movie. Her role is to provide the rationale behind abandoning Lauren's unfashionable moral compass.

The spy stuff is fun; the guy competition stuff is largely fun. The gags are largely funny.

The implication that only if you have sex with someone can you determine if he is a worthwhile companion is disturbing. The idea that you might kill a friend over a girl who is dating both you and the friend is disturbing.

This sounds like I didn't like the movie, but that would not be true. I did, grudgingly, laugh hard at the comic bits. Yet I must admit that there were points at which I looked at Bernie beside me, and was ready to walk out if he was also so inclined. Some of it was far more than I wanted to see.

The movie was originally rated R rather than PG-13, and I would honestly say that the R rating was more apropos.

Won't get this one on DVD.

Article © Bernie and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-02-20
1 Reader Comments
Lydia Manx
04:28:13 PM
I hadn't realized it wasn't being billed as a comedy. All the previews I caught put it in the comedy range as far as I thought. I'll wait til it hits FX in the summer.
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