This is the story of two secret agents. They are best friends. They are terrible secret agents, though the movie seems only dimly aware of this. After all, it is directed by McG, whose idea of spycraft in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle included a bikini car wash. Anyway, the agents meet a girl and they decide they will compete for her, but in a friendly way, because nothing is more important than the two of them staying best friends. Forever. And fighting crime.
People complain Hollywood is making movies for 13-year-olds. Well, This Means War is pinpointed at someone around the age of 9½. It contains no small parts anyone could choke on.
Chris Pine (Kirk in the Star Trek reboot) and Tom Hardy (some muscular person in Inception) play the spies. Pine affects a magnetic facetiousness and Hardy a wounded gentility, while both also seem somewhat mentally incapacitated by a car accident or something. The object of their rival advances (and wiretapping) is Reese Witherspoon, who is less relaxed with each movie—a difficult feat, considering she started out playing Tracy Flick. But you can see where the attraction kicks in. These are resourceful men, and they know if they were stranded in the wilderness with this woman, they could all rub their chins together and start a fire.
Soon enough, Witherspoon learns the truth about the two men she's dating ("I trusted you!") and makes an arbitrary decision based on a Chelsea Handler aphorism about self-improvement. (Yes, Chelsea Handler is in this movie. No, I don't want to talk about it.) Meantime, the only other young lady in the picture is deployed as a fallback option, because penises gotta go somewhere.
Speaking of which: The two secret agents are rather obviously less interested in the girl than in each other's movements, though the movie seems only dimly aware of this. It's almost an interesting question whether this winking incomprehension is an improvement from complete ignorance or panicked denial. Anyway, you can send your 9-year-olds with the assurance they won't learn homophobia. Or anything else. PG-13.
Critic's Score: 35
SEE IT: This Means War opens Friday at Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, City Center, Tigard, Clackamas, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cinetopia Progress Ridge, Cinetopia Mill Plain, Evergreen, Cascade, Sherwood and Wilsonville.