This Means War 

Bromancing the stone - Spilling over into real gay love would've at least been something novel

This Means War

C

This film represents the latest feverish attempt to save the charming Reese Witherspoon from Katerine Heigl-like career immolation. With her cuter-than-a-basket-of-puppies appeal growing dimmer each year, the Witherspoon camp has clearly decided to double down on actually being sexy, and it almost works. There are flashes of humor, excitement and physical chemistry here, but they are often buried under layers calculated hokum.

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy co-star as CIA best pals, saddled with bad screenplay names "FDR" Foster and "Tuck." They look like GQ fashion spread versions of secret agents; when not busy shooting up swanky hotels, they work in a high tech L.A. field office that more closely resembles a cable news channel's studio.

These guys clearly love their jobs; Tuck gets off on the danger, and FDR lives in a multimillion-dollar bachelor pad with a ceiling that looks into the bottom of the pool, so he can better ogle bikini babes as they swim laps. Since they've lost track of the dangerous German criminal with a vendetta against them, these lunkheads turn their attention to online dating, because it's damned hard to meet the right lady when you are a devastatingly handsome covert operative. As ludicrous coincidence would have it, they target the same gal —Witherspoon's perky but hapless Lauren — and soon are using the government's best resources to track their would-be girlfriend's every step, and to stay one step ahead of each other. If you're not disturbed that these dudes would use bugs, satellite surveillance and night-vision goggles to keep tabs on a date, you may be by the fact they are clearly more into each other than they are into Lauren. A bromance spilling over into a real gay love connection would have at least been something novel, instead of a rehash of True Lies gags.

Pine is frighteningly good at this sort of fluff, which does not bode well for his long-term prospects; he'd probably be better off typecast as Captain Kirk than condemned to winking his way through "meet-cute" scenarios for the next decade. His counterpart Hardy shines in the fight scenes and breezes through the buddy stuff, but seems seriously uneasy as a romantic foil. Witherspoon can't help but be sunny, though she gamely tries to match raunch for raunch with Chelsea Handler, who pretty much plays herself as Laurens' obnoxious, dick-joke spewing, vodka-in-a-sippy-cup BFF.

The romantic tension is punctured by a string of action scenes so implausible that they'd supply fodder for two seasons of Mythbusters. As his name implies, director McG (born Joseph McGinty Nichol in Kalamazoo) specializes in a brand of disposable, fattening eye candy, filled with empty calories and slo-mo shots of flying bullets and smoldering wreckage. Considering how lousy the rom-com genre has gotten, the carnage level could be worse. —Corey Hall

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