This Means War has two guys in love with the same woman. Eternal triangle movies don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
Most just awkwardly toss three people into a tangled tango. One wins the dance, two are happy and the odd person out loses. It’s a premise that normally is pretty close to brain death.
This one beats the norm.
The guys are best friends FDR Foster and Tuck, and are nicely done by Star Trek's Chris Pine and Warrior's Tom Hardy. Tuck meets Reese Witherspoon’s indecisive Lauren on a dating site. Later, FDR meets her by chance in a video store.
The men quickly become aware of each other’s involvement with her, but she doesn’t know they know each other. Lauren, who is a passionate product tester, can’t make up her mind. So in a Witherspoon classic pose, she bites her lip and applies product testing techniques to the decision-making process.
The two guys also have their own unique testing techniques. They’re CIA operatives and use the sophisticated spy stuff to track what one or the other is doing with Lauren.
Oh, I almost forgot. The plot starts with the guys crossing a very, very bad man. He has vowed to kill them. As the romance and the comedy heat up, the villain and their date with his destiny becomes more afterthought than thought.
This Means War is an interesting comedy. By no stretch of the imagination is this close to sophisticated. But it’s not slapstick either. Somehow, it works on every level. Even the predictable-as-predictable-gets finale works.
A big reason to love This Means War is the casting. Both Pine and Witherspoon have a natural gift for comedy, and both deliver the not-so-sincere line so sincerely. When it comes to comedy, Hardy is hardly up to their level, but he excels at being second-best and is a superb sad sack.
Once the premise is punched out, and the dating and spying start, things slow down. That’s when comedian Chelsea Handler jumps in to liven things up. She plays Lauren’s best friend Trish. Handler nearly steals the movie as she spins stream-of-consciousness dating advice to Lauren that will have you howling.
This Means War overcomes the genre’s flaws with unique twists on the basic premise. Lots of them. Those twists, the excellent comic acting and director McG’s (Terminator Salvation) terrific pacing make this a perfect Valentine’s Day weekend rom/com.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Feb. 17 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.