This Means War (2012)
The movie that never should have been and yet was. Plus, I have horrible taste because I enjoyed some parts of it.
It was spy movie then romantic comedy then an unhealthy fusion of the two.
The failure of oversight and willingness of coworkers to turn it into a Team Tuck vs. Team FDR war ridiculous. The notion that some bad guy’s younger brother dies as impetus for the rest is okay in principle but shitty in the movie. His last words to his older brother as he passes him mid-air? “You’re an ass.” The fact that they knew Heinrich would be coming for them, knew which port he was coming through and roughly when but were incapable of observing him step off the boat in daylight and drive off with some bad people was obscenely stupid. Supposedly they kidnap a bad guy for intelligence but nothing ever really develops in the actual spy story. It’s just a mechanism to get the actors in position and provide them the resources to act out the rom-com fantasy. The problem is that means you lose the strength of narrative from the spy side and are gambling everything on the strength of your romantic comedy. It is a spy movie, yes, but it has been subverted to attempt a broader market share.
The romantic comedy side has its roots in a competitive squabble between two friends over a girl but is essentially a sort of female fantasy story. Two attractive alpha males fighting over a lonely girl? She plays off each man’s affections and doesn’t choose ostensibly because she just can’t decide when the reality is that it conveniently prolongs the fantasy for female audiences. They have superficial differences but because of their invasive surveillance and backdoor collaborations end up treating it like a political race to the center while pretending to retain their original positions. Resse Witherspoon is cutesy enough for more airy rom-coms but this is an aggressive “war” between highly trained field operatives and she’s portrayed as this weak, vacillating woman who just doesn’t seem to be significant enough to justify the feud. She’s not even an every-day woman but some skinny bitchy exec who is baffled that she is alone. OMFG, I thought he was my world and he left me? I eat sushi alone goddamn it! Deus ex machina meetings with my ex are driving me to make decisions that I don’t even like!
The fact that she’s drawn to FDR at all and even ends up with him feeds the misconceptions women have about dating and/or marriage. Tuck is set up as the family man from the beginning and if resolution with his ex (wife? girlfriend? egg donor?) wasn’t predetermined then clearly he would be the better long term option. FDR is the bad guy who goes to clubs and sees multiple women who just happens to have some back-story and family that cares about him. Haven’t we seen enough movies where a shitty pick-up artist gets turned down but inexplicably decides that this one must be the one to pursue instead of shrugging and heading after more “low-hanging fruit”? She should be worried that once he loses interest in the challenge of winning her affections and competing with his best friend that his actual interest in her will dramatically wane. He is the kind of guy who is very interested in Pilates trainers. There is no character development that connects the early FDR with the later one.
Tuck compromises a lot of his character’s integrity but not as much as it would take to actually remove him from consideration. However, he’s the brother to the prodigal son over and over again so we can’t maintain sympathy for someone who slavishly maintains a friendship to a mediocre friend and is constantly friend-zoned. It’s a movie, we don’t have to like him for his flaws even though in real-life we’ve all been there or known someone exactly the same. It’s not surprising that skinny hot blond would pass on a guy who loves romance and kids.
And Trish? A sanitized Chelsea Handler is not that funny and she’s a shitty mom and wife so why would we listen to her? For her one moment of sincerity? She’s not even offering sound and mature advice, everything is disingenuous faux-feminism. The path to true gender equality is not through women doing what they think men do.
It’s really worth reading the other negative reviews on this one because it can be easy to be caught up in the bromance, action and how we always want Reese Witherspoon to find happiness.
One last word on the differences. A spy movie is predicated upon a fast-moving storyline connecting kinetic fight sequences with tension building scenes in-between as the hero is constantly pursuing or thwarting the bad guy. A rom-com is a slow crescendo of “romance” with the inescapable conflict looming on the horizon with a dramatic breakdown in the “love” story about 2/3 or 3/4 into the movie followed by a heart-warming short arc to redemption. You can’t combine the two, one has to take precedence. This movie attempts to get away with playing games for an hour after the boys are benched and then jam the dissimilar story climaxes into the last 10 minutes.
It’s a bad movie but some movies are just bad and others are bad in a way that’s important to know why. This is a bad movie that is bad for reasons of opinion and reasons of movie-making.
p.s. “Real” private conversations between women are much more explicit and horrifying than anything presented here.