“Dear God, thank you, thank Jesus, thank Buddha, thank Mohammed, thank Allah, thank Krishna, thank every fucking god in the book!” – Bill Hicks
Thank God for the Oscars! Seriously. All sarcasm aside. Choose any deity (or your scientific principle of choice) and get down on your film-going knees and give thanks to this widely-scorned institution of Hollywood narcissism. Who cares that your film never wins? Who cares that comedies are shunned year after year after year? And who cares that The Dark Knight was never even nominated?!?!
I say give thanks brothers and sisters! I say give thanks for one reason and one reason alone: If it were not for every studio in Lala land whoring out their very best pictures to capitalize on any and all pre- & post-Oscar buzz through winter, we would have nothing but the lowest of the low in cinematic endeavors to behold.
These months bring us one of three things outside of the saving grace of Oscar contenders:
- Films dumped by the studios in what is usually a futile attempt to recoup whatever assumed losses they might take on a film they have given up on.
- Films found too risky (which can be rewarding every now and then).
- Valentine’s Day romantic dribble.
It really is a shame. Such a film-releasing pattern is so predictable that by this time of the season I find it hard not to be overly cynical. It’s almost unfair to the film I am reviewing that it is catching me at this time. Why shouldn’t I just write off this movie as cotton candy – sugary but not fulfilling? Can’t it just be “mindless fun?”
Well, no. No, it cannot. I am so tired of studios selling us films with bright lights, crazy sounds, and special effects and being told, “It’s okay. It’s just fun.” It’s even worse when my friends try to sell me on this. Why? Because it’s NOT FUN! Bright lights, crazy sounds and special effects don’t equal fun. They equal Baby Einstein for adults. Latest example: This Means War.
The story is basically a modern-day retelling of Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy.” Only, imagine if the motive of the two black and white adversaries was to nail Reese Witherspoon. That’s it! That’s the movie. I only wish I were kidding.
The setup is so simple that we have two friends who have known each other their WHOLE LIVES who are now trying to KILL each other after spending just a few minutes with her. If you don’t believe me, check out this trailer again and come back to me. Let me know if you see anything that remotely deviates from this formula:
The worst part is that I really wanted to like this movie. I wanted it to surprise me like Easy A or Bridesmaids. Chris Pine can be cool. I think Reese Witherspoon can be quite charming and, at times, downright sexy. As for Tom Hardy, three words: BRONSON, WARRIOR, BANE.
Instead, in this movie, Chris Pine is a douchebag, Reese Witherspoon is annoyingly type-A, and Tom Hardy is a wuss. Sure Chelsea Handler is in the film, but she’s playing Chelsea Handler.
The only thing I will give the movie credit for is that it looked good. McG has never had a problem making films look good, only in making them compelling.
Look on the bright side, if your girl is forcing you to see this film for Valentine’s Day – after the chocolates, the dinner, the wine, and then THIS, she really owes you one. I give it a Nerdskull rating of 2 out of 5.
Counter Programming note: If you want to see a good 20th Century Fox winter film in theaters that falls into their risky category, take a couple hours and watch Chronicle. It’s already one of my favorite superhero films and it was never even a comic book. Just good filmmaking, baby. Good filmmaking.