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Witherspoon’s “This Means War” Tanks on All Fronts: Greg Evans

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Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- “This Means War” is a brainless mash-up of derivative, disposable action scenes and a third-rate episode of “Sex and the City.”

With clumsy direction from McG (“Charlie’s Angels”) and a slapdash screenplay by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg, “This Means War” mixes romantic comedy with action as awkwardly as it pits two best-buddy CIA hunks (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) against one another for the affections of a lonely, supposedly charming consumer advocate (Reese Witherspoon).

The film begins with a phony-looking, shoot-out atop a Hong Kong skyscraper, setting up a mostly neglected subplot in which the two agents battle some ill-defined international arms cartel (headed by the cartoonishly grim Til Schweiger).

Back in Los Angeles, the smooth-talking agent FDR Foster (Pine) and his beefy, Brit-accented partner Tuck (Hardy) bemoan their pitiful love lives until each meets the woman of his dreams. Or the woman of their dreams: They’ve fallen for the same gal -- Witherspoon’s Lauren -- who doesn’t know her two suitors are friends or that they work for the CIA.

Encouraged by her caustic best pal (Chelsea Handler, grating and flat), Lauren dates both men until she can decide which one she loves. The guys, meanwhile, use every CIA gadget and resource to spy on Lauren and one another. The few action scenes are implausible even by the low bar of this kind of genre hyphenate.

“This Means War” tries and fails to find laughs in Lauren’s well-intentioned two-timing and the guys’ good-hearted duplicity. Everything gets smothered in cuteness and maudlin sentiment --not to mention a near-fetishistic obsession with the cast members’ unnaturally blue eyes.

“This Means War,” from 20th Century Fox, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
(No stars)    Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.