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Blu-ray Review: This Means War

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Part spy thriller and part romantic comedy, This Means War is for fans of its trio of stars only. The presence of Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek reboot), Tom Hardy (Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis), and Reese Witherspoon (no Trek connection) is really all this McG-directed disaster has going for it. That’s not to suggest any of them contribute especially good performances (Hardy, in particular, seems miscast), but they’re just barely charming enough to be the only recommendable aspect of this unfunny, unromantic, and unexciting mess.

Best buddies FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are CIA agents working a case involving a German baddie named Heinrich (Til Schweiger). The details are really not important (or ever dealt with in a coherent manner), but suffice it to say Heinrich blames the pair of agents for the death of his brother. He is on the trail of FDR and Tuck, resulting in the two partners keeping a low profile at the insistence of their boss, Collins (Angela Bassett, wasted in what amounts to little more than a pointless cameo). With his schedule lax, Tuck–a lonely divorcee–decides to seek companionship via an online dating service. FDR views this approach as pathetic, but determines to compete with Tuck once he receives a bite.

The bite comes from the lovely but ditzy Lauren (Witherspoon), whose snarky friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) convinced her to post a profile on the same dating site. This sets off the titular “war,” as FDR and Tuck construct wildly elaborate backstories to woo Lauren. Neither one wants the other to walk away with her. Lauren, unaware of either of her suitors’ true backgrounds, decides to date both without realizing they know she’s two-timing. It’s never entirely clear why these two handsome, professionally successful guys are so obsessed with this airhead. If she was hotter, their pursuit might be more understandable. But let’s face it, Reese Witherspoon is well past her prime (think 1996-’98, long before the Oscar for Walk the Line, when she was showing a little skin in Twilight and Fear). Anyway, she’s older than both these guys, shouldn’t they be chasing younger tail?

The love triangle thing just doesn’t work here. Hardy’s Tuck should be more of a sad sack. He’s jumping back into the dating scene after finally facing the fact that his ex-wife has no interest in him. The story needed more contrast between FDR’s ultra-confident, smooth-talking charmer and the more dour Tuck. But as played by Hardy, we just can’t believe that he is stooping to the online dating scene. The script prevents Witherspoon from developing any depth or consistency in Lauren–she behaves whichever way best serves the purpose of any given scene. And the Heinrich subplot doesn’t really fit the rest of the movie, it’s there mostly as an excuse to have some gunfire and generally noisy action to punctuate the rom-com scenes.

This Means War, with its garishly exaggerated colors, is served well by the high definition format. It looks good on Blu-ray, without ever rising to a jaw-dropping level. The image, framed at 2.40:1, contains a satisfying amount of fine detail. The hyperkinetic cinematography never really settles down enough to offer anything interesting to look at, but facial features register strongly during rare, lingering close-ups. Colors are extra bold and vibrant, apparently by design. It was shot on film, and the transfer displays a natural amount of grain.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is suitably bombastic during the action sequences. Dialogue is loud and clear during the quieter scenes, but it’s the gunplay and chase scenes that will have you cranking up your system (or turning it down, depending on the circumstances). Plenty of directional effects zip and zing around all the channels during these scenes, with an impressive amount of bass from the LFE channel as well. It’s not startling or unique in any way, just a solid surround sound presentation in lossless high definition.

Special features, should you truly desire more This Means War hijinks, include a commentary track by director McG, 15 very long minutes of deleted scenes, and no less than three alternate endings. Falling into the category of “deleted scene,” but listed separately as “Bachelorette Party,” is a series of bitchy, faux-funny comments by attendees of Lauren’s bachelorette party. This includes additional material with Chelsea Handler and a few bits from Whitney Cummings, if that trips your trigger. An “uncensored” gag reel includes nothing unacceptable for a PG-13 rating. All in all, there should be more than enough extra crap to look at for those who consider themselves fans of this movie. The Blu-ray contains the theatrical cut as well as an extended (by about six minutes) “unrated” cut.

About The Other Chad

Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."