A rom-com spy caper moved to Valentine's Day revolving around efficient and envious CIA operatives caught between a crestfallen cute woman has something for both sexes.
This Means War stars Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, and has the kind of airy, generic qualities that punctuated the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz actioner, Knight & Day. Also, it may also resonate a little for those of an older generation who remember the less awkward, more intense Richard Dreyfuss/Emilio Estevez pic Stakeout.
Helmer McG, up somewhat from a lackluster Terminator: Salvation, tries to maintain an amiable light touch for the material centering on the two nattily-attired CIA-men (Pine and Hardy as FDR Foster and Tuck, respectively) who tentatively set up a 'gentleman's pact' after demoted from some maverick rooftop work on top of a Hong Kong skyscraper.
Like I Love You, Man, Pine and Hardy get the bromantic squibbling going, getting on with the macho negativity towards one another, as Witherspoon's lovelorn Lauren enters their lives through via some complex on-line dating.
The filmmakers navigate smoothly between a variety of set-pieces as the high-tech interior designs suggest something more futuristic, at least for what is supposed to be Langley. For the narrative schematic co-drafted by Simon Kinsberg of Sherlock Holmes the bonding around the triangle provides most of the entertainment in an ad-lib, easy-going way. The underlying characters as played by Til Schweiger and Abigail Spencer (of the atonal Cowboys & Aliens), and Angela Bassett (better in Jumping The Broom than Green Lantern in too brief as FDR and Tuck's boss) look good enough to figure in the enjoyment but have little impact in the space the filmmakers create to prioritize their mood and ideas.
This Means War, even through its creditable character interdependence, doesn't really go as far as its name implies, as the action figures most prominently in book-ending fashion. On the distaff side, Witherspoon may not manifest her comedic aplomb to a really desirable duplicitous effect, but she's complemented by Chelsea Handler's coarsely down-to-earth girlfriend Trish (the naughty comedian is riding a wave of success from her E and NBC shows).
If some of the line readings are too rote (or truncated in the case of Handler to find favor with the MPAA) and the explosiveness and romance (corny storytelling and overblown action definitely for some) unfolds unimaginatively without lingering at all afterwards, there's the playful aggressiveness that probably and pleasurably mitigates against the usual reasonable viewer scrutiny.