Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Means War DVD review; a spy vs. spy action comedy

When I first saw the trailer for This Means War, I was interested.  I'm a fan of Tom Hardy and Chris Pine, as well as Reese Witherspoon.  So when I read that McG was directing, I thought, "Ok, lets give this a chance."  With a script written by Timothy Dowling and Simon Kinberg (Role Models and Sherlock Holmes respectively), I knew I was in for a treat.  Lets go!

What I Liked About the Film:
The Premise
Remember those old Mad magazine comics, Spy vs. Spy?  They were a mix of espionage and Looney Tunes in one.  This Means War takes that same idea into the real world.  Hardy and Pine are both dating Witherspoon, as the trailers have so obviously explained.  Some of the best scenes in the movie consist of the two friends sabotaging each other's dates with Witherspoon.  Some of it is physical comedy and some of it is in the witty dialogue, both work really well.

I mentioned the dialogue above, but it should be noted that it is one of the best aspects of the film.  Dowling and Kinberg write dialogue that is respectable, and believable between the two spies.  Above all the arguing and fighting, we believe there is a deep seeded friendship between the two.  Along with the written words, Hardy and Pine deliver their lines perfectly.  The comedy comes from their timing, and it was great.

Some people hate him, some people love him.  Regardless of your position on the man, McG can direct action.  His take on the Terminator franchise may have been met with critical dismay, but the action was a spectacle to behold.  Here, he is able to have fun with the spy genre while keeping it lite.  I especially love the action that opens the film.  Good stuff.

What I Didnt Like About the Film:
The villain, that is really only in the movie to give the spies something to do, is barely shown onscreen.  I swear, one action film after the other neglects this aspect of the story.  Some of the best action films, superhero driven or otherwise, have memorable villains.  Take The Dark Knight for example; the Joker was breathtakingly scary in his role, perhaps more memorable than Batman.  Another film that comes to mind is The Professional, whose villainous role was played by the great Gary Oldman.

Plot, or Lack of
Other than the sabotaging of dates, not much really happens in the film.  There is no real plot, no real structure.  The first, second and third act feel unorganized and one giant sketch.  As an audience, we're basically just waiting from one date to the next, to see what happens.  In between those dates, we get the obnoxious Chelsea Handler, giving advice to the Witherspoon character.  Trust me, 30 minutes into the movie, a lot of the gags lose their effectiveness.  

The pacing is dreadful.  Like I said, we're just waiting from one date to the next for something to happen.  The "character building" scenes are pretty bad.  Hardy is a really nice guy.  Pine is a womanizer for a good reason.  And Witherspoon has never had this much excitement in her life, so the notion of dating two guys at once is a big deal.  I was basically just waiting for Witherspoon to see which guy she was going to pick.

The Verdict:
Fun at Times and Flat Overall
That sums it up.

The DVD/Blu-Ray combo:
The DVD/Blu-Ray combo comes with quite a few goodies.  Most notable are the alternate endings, which McG was rumored to release at different screenings across the country.  Also on the Blu-Ray is a funny gag reel and a few deleted scenes that have commentary by McG.  Finally there is a great audio commentary by McG.  Below are the full details on the special features:

• Alternate Endings w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG
– Warehouse Alternate Ending
– Alternate Ending #1
– Alternate Ending #2
• Bachelorette Party
• Uncensored Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG
• Alternative Opening Concept (Previz w/ Optional Commentary by Director McG)
• Audio Commentary by Director McG (standard and extended versions)
• Theatrical Trailer

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