Spy vs. Spy: ‘This Means War’ (Movie Review)

Growing up, I remember being enamored by Mad magazine, particularly one regular strip in particular, Spy vs. Spy.  Do you remember those?  Those black and white characters had me in stitches every time I read their strip and I was overjoyed when they were eventually commercialized into everything from an animated television series to trading cards and video games.  The reason I mention these crudely animated little fellows is because they are exactly what I thought about the first time I saw the theatrical trailer for This Means War.  And it also meant the return of McG.  In the eyes of the critics out there beside myself, I wonder what fairs worse?  I’m not going to lie.  This Means War looked like a fun little movie, but it didn’t win me over instantly.  What did was the controversy behind it.  I’m referring to how it went from losing the appeal of it being labeled a Rated-R comedy by the MPAA and how it was excised down to a PG-13 cut. That was instant disappointment in my book, but nevertheless, when a press screening was arranged for the flick I ventured out of my warm igloo into the harsh Cleveland temperatures to check the romantic comedy vehicle out.  Was I disappointed by my decision?  Read on to find out.

So the $70 million dollar romantic action comedy flick from 20th Century Fox lands in theaters next Friday the 17th, but if you play your cards right, you can find limited engagements today in a theater near you.  It’s a perfect idea for a Valentine’s Day night out on the town, right guys?  I mean here’s the promise of what you can expect the film to at least deliver on.  You know you’ll have a hot Reese Witherspoon and a comedic action thrill ride.  And for the lady folk, there are the hard chiseled bodies of Chris Pine and Tom Hardy.  I’m not going to lie (notice that’s the second time I said that already in this review and I’m only in the second paragraph).  Ever since I saw Tom Hardy in the Warrior, I think I have a small man crush on the lad.  Yes, he doesn’t have perfect teeth.  Yes he has thinning hair.  But guess what?  The guy has charisma and onscreen chemistry with his surrounding cast members and that’s usually always the right ingredient for success in a movie, providing the script is airtight too, but of course.

You know what’s funny?  While watching the film I couldn’t help think about 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  I guess that was for good reason considering Simon Kinberg, the same man responsible for the Smith script, penned the screenplay.  I guess I’m getting good at this game, huh?  Well with that said, I guess you pretty much know what to expect from this film.  My guess is whether you or male or female, you are going to have a romping good time with this one, but don’t take my word for it.  Let’s look at the cold hard facts.  Shall we?

The film pits CIA agents and best friends, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, against each other in a love triangle when they discover they are dating the same woman, Reeese Witherspoon.  It should also be noted that Chelsea Handler has a role in this and she comes across as almost the perfect comedic sidekick to Reese’s character.  Her husband references and jokes had me in stitches.  Anyway, this little problem, or predicament we will call it, has a serious strain on both the agents’ personal and professional lives.  I’m telling you guys, women will do that to you.  I know what WSB reviewer Gerard Iribe would say about the situation, but I’m willing to bet a “predicament” like this would drive most guys to all out war on each other, hence the film’s title.  God!  Am I genius for putting two-and-two together, or what?

The 97-minute popcorn flick starts out with a bang as we are treated to an AC/DC like induced rooftop shootout that rudimentary sets up the motive of the movie’s bad guy played by Til Schweiger.  You see, this guy suffers from what I like to call the Die Hard syndrome.  He is out for revenge on Pine and Hardy’s characters for the fatal fall his brother suffered at the hands of the two agents.  Better yet, he’s like a Terminator.  This guy hunts them down mercilessly.  And in between this revenge story, we also have this blossoming romantic comedy happening too.  To what hilarious and violent extents will Pine and Hardy go to secure an exclusive relationship with Reeese’s character?  Well that’s part of the fun of the Act II B-Love Story.  I’m not going to ruin that for you, but rest assured, there is some new hilarious stuff to be seen here that wasn’t represented in the film’s theatrical trailer.  Thank God!  I was really worried that the spy versus spy antics from the trailer was all the gas this movie had, but thankfully I was wrong.  And in times like these, I love to be proven wrong.

All in all, this film is exactly what I expected it to be.  The script is straight out of Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat and you can’t fault that.  However, I just can’t help wondering what the original Rated-R cut might have felt/looked like.  I feel like there were moments and scenes that were missing, most likely due to the ratings cut, but for the most part this rom-brom-com delivers on the laughs and also on the action, making this the perfect choice for Valentine’s Day unless there is no way your girl won’t let you out of seeing The Vow.  In that case, good luck.  My heart goes out to you.

You want to know my favorite part of the film?  No, Reese does not get naked.  And no, my man crush is not that severe on Tom Hardy.  It’s actually a reference to JJ Abrahams’ Star Trek film as it relates to Chris Pine’s character.  I’m not going to ruin the delivery of the joke, but see if you can catch it.  It will probably go right over the heads of many females, but for the geeks like me, the reference/nod to Star Trek was priceless.  And one thing’s for sure…Reese Witherspoon has a horrible singing voice.  What?  I’m just saying.  Check it out!  And oh yeah…Happy Valentine’s Day all!






Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

4 Responses to “Spy vs. Spy: ‘This Means War’ (Movie Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Saw an early version of this a while ago. I was very surprised the first rating was an R, as the film already felt pretty tame. The only thing I can imagine them changing was some of the word choices in Chelsea Handler’s \jokes\.

    As for the film itself, I thought it was pretty forgettable, fine for a one-time watch, but nothing special.

  2. Gregg

    I honestly thought this was about a Spy vs. Spy film until I saw the pics. Misleading title. Boooo. I’ll pass on the film anyway.

  3. Matt Goodman

    Was the marketing bad on this one?

    In other words, would you classify it as an action film or a romantic comedy.

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    The marketing sells the exact film you would expect…which was a forgettable action-comedy.