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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Hardy, Chris Pine, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett, David Koechner, Til Schweiger
DIRECTED BY
McG
SCREENPLAY
Burr Steers, Marcus Gautesen, Simon Kinberg, Timothy Dowling
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
98 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
20th Century Fox
DVD EXTRAS
commentary by Director McG, an alternative opening concept with optional commentary by Director McG, 6 deleted scenes with optional commentary, alternate endings with optional commentary, a Bachelorette Party feature, an Uncensored Gag Reel, and the theatrical trailer.
 "This Means War" Review 
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It's always a bad sign when film critics are kept away from a film. For the most part, studios and film critics have this uneasy, cooperative relationship.

Studios need to market their films. Studios need to spread the word and, sometimes at least, even a negative film review is better than no publicity at all.

Film critics need to screen the films in order to review them. It's really hard to be a film critic if you don't see the films, and it's really hard to be a legit film critic if you're not invited to press screenings, promo screenings and/or the recipient of press screeners.

Studios and film critics need each other, but neither is likely to ever acknowledge it.

Studios have reaped the rewards of a changing journalistic world, a world where the world of traditional film criticism has given way to a world where every ordinary joe has a film website and where studios can obtain a wealth of publicity simply by creating a website, engaging social media or creating a Facebook page. Only a few publications still employ full-time film critics, and even the Pulitzer Prize-winning Roger Ebert has struggled to maintain sponsorship for his own efforts though he does remain a full-time writer for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Studios these days, at least for now, enjoy a bit more control in the studio/film critic relationship as evidenced by their frequent use of embargoes, controlled screenings and selective screenings. Frequently, markets like Indianapolis are considered second or third-tier markets and are subject to limited screenings. The Indianapolis Star, the areas daily newspaper, is owned by Gannett, a company that has stripped the paper of virtually anything resembling a local flavor and that seems to prefer to outsource its film criticism. Thus, while the Indiana Film Journalists Association is an active and growing organization, the area is devoid of the "big name" that would hold some sway with the studios.

I say all this because This Means War is a film that was destined to be panned by critics and has, for the most part, been panned by critics. 20th Century Fox, the film's studio, no doubt knew it had a turkey on its hands so didn't have a press screening and didn't invite press to promo screenings.

Um. Yeah. Great way to market your film.

Stupid.

In other words "We know our film sucks and we don't need you telling the world."

So be it. That's your right, 20th Century Fox. It's also my right to question such behavior as a marketing decision. It's poor fiscal management and poor marketing. The simple truth is I hate bashing films, but I love finding films that my readers will enjoy. I may hate a film, but I love it when I discover that a film may actually work for someone. In other words, I'm more than just a film critic and I do more than just criticize films. I've intentionally built a website based upon building a relationship with my readers that helps them to read my reviews and decide for themselves if a film will meet their needs.

This Means War isn't a good film or a bad film. It's a disappointing film, perhaps, because it features a talented actress floundering and struggling to play a role that really doesn't suit her well. Witherspoon is an immensely talented actress, but it takes a special type of film to make her convincing in a romantic comedy and this simply isn't that kind of film.

Lauren (Witherspoon) is a marketing researcher who is clueless in love. When her slutty best friend (Who else but Chelsea Handler?) places a personal ad for her she finds herself caught between Tuck (Thomas Hardy), a warm and fuzzy single dad, and Franklin (Chris Pine), a bit more of a player.

Oh, and lest I forget, they both happen to be best friends and CIA agents.

You do know where this is going, right?

As a romantic comedy, This Means War mostly fizzles as Witherspoon doesn't particularly have a convincing chemistry with either man and, in fact, it's the "friendship" between the two men, with strong bro-mance undertones, that really makes this a film that's worth watching on a certain level.

This Means War becomes a war between Tuck and Franklin to win the heart, or at least the affection, of Lauren while using a vast array of CIA resources to accomplish it even while a terrorist (Til Schweiger) is in the picture trying to do some damage. The action sequences are occasionally quite engaging, way more engaging than the romance, but considering the film's a PG-13 rated film even the action sequences are a tad muted.

While Lauren starts out rather likable, by the end of the film she's as unlikable as are Franklin and Tuck. They all become so needlessly embroiled in the "war" that the idea of any love or romance existing in the film seems completely ludicrous. The ending, reportedly one of several shot by director McG (and I use the word director lightly), is nonsensical and only adds to the sense that only the most hardcore Witherspoon fans are likely to enjoy this film.

So, really. Maybe 20th Century Fox was really trying to do film critics a favor by keeping away from This Means War because to expect us to peacefully sit through this turkey would really be an act of war.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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