Terribly stupid, totally fun.

I needed a laugh when I saw This Means War. And I got it. Terribly stupid, but totally fun. Also: Tom Hardy.

I broke my rule last week. I read a review of This Means War before I saw it. I only read one: Roger Ebert’s vicious pan of the film. While I’ve not always shared Ebert’s taste, I have developed a deep affection for him as a champion of independent movies, liberal politics, and, after cancer surgery left him without the ability to speak, how to live with a disability with integrity.

So I was rather dismayed at the tone he took in his review of This Means War,which not only attacked Reese Witherspoon for not being a sexpot and therefore absurd as a woman that Chris Pine and Tom Hardy would go to war over, but also blasted the relationship between best friends Pine and Hardy, who do everything together and adore each other like brothers. “Because surely they’re gay,” Ebert writes.

If only. I’d love Tom Hardy to play gay. With me. But there’s nothing gay about Tuck (Hardy) and FDR (Pine) and their friendship unless you believe, like so many adolescent homophobes seem to, that any vague display of affection between two men must mean they’re sleeping together.

I saw the film in a theater full of young straight guys and they seemed to love the movie. Partly, I’m sure, because of the competition between Tuck and FDR, and partly because it’s very, very funny.

This isn’t to say that This Means War is a brilliant film. It is absurd; the plot requires more than your average suspension of disbelief. Tuck and FDR are twoCIA agents who are grounded after turning a covert mission in Hong Kong into a frenzied gunfight that ends with the brother of their target falling from a skyscraper. Instead of doing their desk jobs, they both start dating Lauren, who doesn’t know they are CIA agents or that they know each other. As the men compete for her affections, they devote more and more CIA resources to tracking and sabotaging each other. And then the target of the Hong Kong fiasco shows up to take revenge. Insanity ensues.

As silly as it is, I found This Means War very funny and very entertaining. McG paces the comedy and the action equally well, but he also has Reese Witherspoon, something like a cross between late ’80s Meg Ryan and mid ’60s Doris Day. Tom Hardy, who is distractingly sexy, oozes charm and winking humor. Chris Pine, who has a distractingly large forehead, pulls off FDR just fine, but I would rather the role had been cast with someone a bit less safe, a little more dangerous. I doubt a little more edge would have pleased Ebert; he just hated it, and possibly for all of the wrong reasons.

This Means War
Directed by McG
Written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, Chris Pine and Chelsea Handler
Rated PG-13