Hostilities in This Means War are declared as two workmates compete for the affection of the same woman. The contested objective is Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a product tester who decides to apply comparative shopping techniques to dating. Her would-be beaus, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), are best friends who sit across from each other at work. The hook is that their desks are in the slate-colored guts of the CIA's Los Angeles field office — and that the boys will put the agency's entire arsenal to work in their pursuit.
Aside from the high-concept novelty, This Means War prefers to keep things as familiar as possible. By the time the line “Was this some kind of bet?” arrives, it's clear that this is timetable script writing, plain and simple. The familiarity of the material extends to Lauren's decision between the well-oiled ladies' man (FDR) and the solid, dependable type (Tuck).
Quite recently, Witherspoon was looking at the same choice in How Do You Know. But where James L. Brooks' great, humane film searched out emotional individuality within Owen Wilson's and Paul Rudd's bad-boy/nice-guy archetypes, This Means War's temperamentally shallow director, McG, deals strictly in ready-mades. Onetime music-video director McG has never evolved past trying to make every scene “pop”; consequently, he's much more comfortable crosscutting between control-room antics and date nights than staying with intimate moments. But such constant, coercive insistence on what a rollicking good time we're having is inevitably smothering. —Nick Pinkerton (Citywide)