Film Review: 'This Means War' a humorless slog

There is much humor to be found in the outrageous, even dangerous, lengths a sympathetic character will resort to in the name of obsessive love. And there's plenty on display in the preview teaser for the next “Ice Age” movie as Scrat — the 21st century's Wile E. Coyote – dives to the bottom of the sea in pursuit of his beloved acorn.

Unfortunately, the teaser only lasts two minutes, and then you have to watch “This Means War,” in which there are almost no sympathetic characters and precious little humor.

Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are BFFs. They are also hard-fightin', gun-totin' covert CIA agents. And now they're both in love with the same girl, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon).

Well, FDR is not exactly in love at first — more in lust. The shyer, more sensitive Tuck thinks he might really have found his soul mate. FDR makes only the briefest gesture toward bowing out of the potential triangle, in the name of their longtime friendship, but doesn’t put much energy into convincing Tuck.

Soon they are competing for her affection and using the entire tech resources of the CIA (and a lot of manpower) to do so. Independently, they both bug her and track her through satellite video and generally provide a really good place for either major party to start their budget cuts. When one of FDR's tech aides suggests that what they're doing raises serious constitutional issues, FDR silences him simply by saying, “Patriot Act.” This might be intended as political satire, if it weren't that the film clearly wants us to be in collusion with these two high-tech stalkers.

Of course, when Lauren finds out what's been going on, she is righteously furious for all of about five minutes. Then she announces which guy she's picking — the wrong guy, it turns out.

It's not like we've been made to care very much about who wins Lauren's hand (and other bodily components), but, if there's a chance you do care and don't want the ending spoiled — heaven knows, it's already rotten — then skip the next two paragraphs.

When one character is named for an iconic president and the other for a brand of medicated rectal wipe, it's not hard to guess which one the filmmakers are rooting for. This becomes even more obvious when, as soon as the rivalry begins, director McG (the “Charlie's Angel” movies) and his screenwriters practically forget about Tuck — who might have provided a sympathetic audience identification figure — and stay with FDR.

Not only is FDR essentially a shallow jerk, a ring-a-ding ladies' man straight out of a swingin' ‘60s Frank Sinatra movie, but I doubt that anyone I know would prefer Pine's pretty-boy looks to Hardy's deeper charisma. Pine was OK in “Star Trek,” and he may turn out to be an excellent actor, but for now he's Rob Lowe, ca. 1985.

In and among all this are several action scenes that make as little sense internally as the plot that supposedly justifies them.

It's nice that the filmmakers give a quick tip of the hat to Ernst Lubitsch, via a clip from “Heaven Can Wait,” given that one of the few funny lines is lifted from Lubitsch's “Design for Living” (where it's much funnier). Unfortunately, McG is no Lubitsch, and the references only invite the comparison.

ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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