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'This Means War' movie review, trailer: Witherspoon, Pine, Hardy don't shine in spy drama

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BY JOE TYRRELL
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
MOVIE REVIEW

The cute couple at the heart of "This Means War" is trying not to let business interfere with their relationship, but they have trouble keeping important things private.

They've got the looks. They've got the threads. They've got the hair products. But drawing a curtain over public displays of malice, that's a problem.

For instance, when their CIA boss reminds them at the start of this movie that "this is a covert operation," they immediately shoot up a crowded rooftop hotel bar, sending thugs flying and women screaming, before inadvertently letting one of their kidnap targets plummet 50 stories or so.

It's not really FDR's fault. Why would it be, Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been dead for 67 years? No, the other FDR, the one in this movie with the unexplained initials. He had a hold of the bad guy's suit, but a seam ripped. This being Hong Kong, he naturally expected the man would have had a better tailor.

FDR sure does. He's played by Chris Pine, apparently preparing for a another GQ cover. Meanwhile, his character is under not-very-much-cover. FDR's espionage skill is that he's very handsome.

FDR's undercover inamorata is Tuck. No, not the guitarist from Tuck and Patti, nor one of the family of immortals. Not tuck and roll. Just Tuck. Perhaps it's a code name. As embodied by Tom Hardy, Tuck's espionage skill is that he's British. Also, he has tats.

Tuck and FDR: put them together, you still don't get James Bond.

What you get are boys who finish each other's sentences, comment on each other's cologne, and are each worried when they can get only the message on the other's cell phone. Call me. Really, call me. I'm worried about you. C-a-l-l me.

While Chinese authorities apparently are unruffled by rooftop — and street-level — carnage, the same can't be said for that hard-nosed CIA boss, Angela Bassett. Well, she doesn't use her own name. After all, she is a spy. She must have a code name. Let's call her Angela.

Her role here consists of walking into the occasional scene, every one with blue-screened computers reflecting off blue-tinted glass to match the boy's azure, cornflower and ultramarine wardrobes. Angela barks something blue-tinged. She then turns on her high heels and purposefully strides offscreen, toward the world of good acting.


The boys are in trouble because they were assigned to capture the Jonas Brothers. Or the Koch brothers. Or perhaps Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Anyway, while one brother is splayed on some Hong Kong player's car, the other brother is still at large. And he's upset. Angela Bassett reminds the boys about him.

But FDR and Tuck aren't concentrating on spy stuff. They've met a woman.

Lauren enters promisingly, spraying flame at the camera. Alas, she's in the kitchen with the other women, using a butane torch to test the finish on frying pans for a consumer buying guide. Even though Lauren is played by the formidable Reese Witherspoon, these two seconds are as forceful as she gets.

At least until she's pulling one of the boys into bed. Which one? Well, you'll have to watch the movie. Or not.

Lauren meets Tuck semi-intentionally. She has put an attention-getting personal ad on the web. Or rather, her girlfriend has placed it for her. Her gal pal, who probably has a code name, is Chelsea Handler in the role she was born to play: Chelsea Handler as the female lead's gal pal.

Tuck answers Lauren's ad. They meet for drinks and hit it off. But we know there's an obstacle. Tuck already has a beard, er, ex-wife, Katie, played by the drop-dead skinny but nevertheless gorgeous Abigal Leigh Spencer. They even have a cute 7-year-old son.

We are given to understand that Katie left Tuck because he "screwed things up." It was on account of his lifestyle choices. Katie thinks Tuck is a travel agent, and couldn't understand why he was still traveling when all the other agents were on their computers or looking for other lines of work.

Fortunately, during the date, Tuck's best bud has been lurking in the video rental shop around the corner — possibly, this bit takes place in 1999 — to make sure everything goes well. Well, goes.

Soon, Lauren and FDR run into each other. They don't hit it off. But FDR persists, and sooner they you can say, "I can't believe how contrived this script is," he's rescuing Lauren from the ongoing mortification of being single and encountering her ex-boyfriend and his pretty fiancée.

Sooner than you can smack your forehead in exasperation, the boys are competing for Lauren's affections by planting devices in her home and on her person while assigning colleagues to monitor her every move. Dating really is different these days.thismeanswartrio_021812_opt

And just in the nick of time, Tuck is saying to FDR, or vice versa, "However this comes out, what we have here — between the two of us — is over." However this comes out, it's romance gone wrong.

The script purportedly was written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, the latter being guilty of the Robert Downey Jr. version of "Sherlock Holmes." It was directed by McG of "Charlie's Angels" notoriety. That's obviously a code name. But he's also executive producer of "Nikita," a TV show that I enjoy, perhaps too much. So I'm not going to reveal his real name. Because then moviegoers would have to, or at least want to, kill him.

Listen, watching "This Means War" beats being kidnapped at gunpoint by a guy names Heinrich. It is preferable to driving off a freeway overpass at high speed. And let's see, there was a third thing that it is better than... oops, sorry.

If you go, be sure to pack some extra brain cells, because "This Means War" drains them quickly.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or followed on Twitter @ jtyrrell87

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