Maybe it's just because I've been at this "writing about movies" thing for a pretty long time, but once in a while I see a flick that doesn't even feel like a movie. It comes off more like a blueprint; a paint-by-numbers, modular-component, pre-fabricated, glossily-packaged piece of vacant ... product. But probably not.
A first-year film freak could probably see right through the aggressively formulaic mindlessness of This Means War and, if they're lucky, decide to continue with their newfound passion for cinema. Movies like This Means War represent the absolute nadir of filmmaking, truth be told, patched and slapped together like so many deleted scenes from a justifiably-forgotten CBS sitcom from the 1960s. "Product" is the word of the day, much like how trash bags and shovels are "products," and as a lifelong movie-lover who always tries to accept a film's ostensible balance between "commerce" and "art," I'm just growing very weary of witless crap that exists only to steal a quick $25 million at the box office, only to be forgotten, aside from the DVD release, forever.
What's most distressing about This Means War is not its harrowingly inept editing, its insultingly stupid jokes, or its mirthlessly plodding pace -- it's that it somehow takes two very cool actors AND an Oscar-winning leading lady and turns them into people you can't stand to look at for five consecutive minutes. It takes a special kind of ignorance to make Tom Hardy boring, to make Chris Pine unlikable, and to make Reese Witherspoon unattractive, but This Means War pulls it off with alarming precision.
The plot, and that's me being charitable, is about two spies who are trying to woo the same woman. There goes your nine bucks. Also there are four or five scenes that focus on an "action subplot," of sorts, but they're slapped right into the dreary three-way rom-com with the skill of a baby banging on dishpans. By the time the villainous Til Schwieger pops up in a wholly insipid scene at an ill-fated tailor's shop, This Means War stops becoming potentially "mindless" fun and becomes absolutely insulting.
Strangest of all (perhaps) is that such a lifeless dirge would come from the director known as McG, who has certainly proven (at least with the first Charlie's Angels flick) that he has a flair for the colorfully hyper-kinetic comic book style of action filmmaking. Compare the big set pieces in Charlie's Angels to the one (1) big brawl or the one (1) long chase found in This Means War, and it only serves to underline my theory that NOBODY FREAKING CARED. This movie feels like it was conceived with a cast first, a release date second, and a clunky patchwork screenplay third. Or maybe fourth after a good craft services company. This is coming from a guy who tries to find a true, small sense of artistry in even the most bombastic of Hollywood junk-heaps:
This Means War is not only generic, redundant, and beholden to some of the lamest old gags in the book ... technically speaking, it barely even qualifies as a finished film.
This Means War is now playing in theaters across the U.S.