The sight of Tom Hardy taking a shot to the groin with a giant yellow paint ball in the televised trailer was enough to elicit a belly laugh from the blond mini-me who often accompanies me to the local Cinemark. I even momentarily considered letting her come along to check this one out, having decided based on that same trailer that the premise of Fox’s This Means War was a unique enough twist on the usual love triangle comedy to get my attention. I’m glad I didn’t. Not that I didn’t find the film enjoyable – I laughed often and hard from beginning to end, and I loved every semi-predictable minute of it. No, it’s because it definitely more than earned it’s PG-13 rating with humor that certainly would’ve made my dead grandmother blush and left me with a lot of explaining to do over topics not exactly appropriate for second graders. And quite frankly, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed myself as much if I were worried about having to squirm out of all that explaining. (FYI – This film was originally rated R and only changed to PG-13 at the last minute thanks to the taming of Chelsea Handler’s character.)
So why use “semi-predictable” earlier? Let’s face it, we all know the boys are going to fight over the girl. We all know the spies are going to fight the bad guy and at some point the girl will be in peril and require rescue. We all know the girl is going to struggle with choosing which guy she wants, and we all know there’ll be a happy ending. It’s what Dowling and Kinberg fill in between the predictable parts that makes this movie so much fun. No, I’m not going to tell you because it will ruin the movie for you by removing the shock value that makes most of the funnier moments worthwhile. Suffice to say, watch for some uncomfortably hilarious moments involving Chelsea Handler as, Trish, (Lauren’s BFF) Cheetos, wine and a chubby hubby. Any of us who have ever spent much time as a single female can likely claim to have a friend like Trish, and our lives are certainly much more interesting as result.
I have no doubts about why the critics hate this movie. It’s a little too obvious that nice guy Tuck (Tom Hardy) will, well, play nice and eventually find love, and that FDR (Chris Pine) will do what self-absorbed, cocky womanizing jerks do just to prove they can. And, of course, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), will wrestle with the guilt of dating two men like any self-respecting professional, single-quirky-good-girl looking for “the one” would. We can all agree that, though the cast carries their characters off perfectly and hits every comedic mark, no one will be winning any Oscars for this one. And, as usual, the critics scoff at the low-brow humor because it offends their refined sensibility of what the art of film should be. But for the rest of us, that low brow humor is just what the doctor ordered on a rainy afternoon and certainly enough to repeatedly crack up the entire theater, which was amazingly full for such a widely proclaimed terrible film. (Sorry, just quoting the professional movie watchers on that one.) I for one am not ashamed to admit that I found this movie entertaining partly because I certainly wouldn’t be heartbroken to find myself the reason two super-hot men were locked in an epic battle, even if the whole scenario is so completely unrealistic as to be ridiculous. I also dream about owning a burnt orange Lamborghini Aventador. I think both have an equal chance of happening. But I digress.
I think what I loved most about this movie was that the characters weren’t perfect. I loved that Lauren and Trish conjure memories of conversations with similar friends as they discuss the flaws of both suitors. I love that, like any other man I’ve ever met, the two eavesdropping guys make no bones about using those declared flaws to throw each other off balance in pursuit of the girl. Of course it’s a stretch of the imagination that these two highly trained, very eligible spies would put their careers and their lives at risk for a woman who does marketing analysis on everything from home appliances to military parachutes for a living but can’t figure out which of these two distinctly different men is more appealing to her. (It’s an even bigger stretch to think any woman outside of Hollywood would be lucky enough to meet two interesting men who look like that in the same day and find her worth fighting over.) But this film is all about fantasy and taps into some of the hidden daydreams most single women have harbored at least once in their lives while suffering through yet another boring date with your average [insert dull profession here]. Sure, in reality if two guys were acting the way these two bozos do, we’d declare them psychotic and change our phone numbers. In the movie world, though, it’s almost flattering for a man to use our country’s multi-million dollar satellite system to gather intel that will help them figure out how to win the girl. And I’m good with that as long as it makes me laugh.
So you tell me, are the critics right to pan McG‘s latest Valentine’s Day effort, or did you laugh enough to buy the Blu-Ray later on? I look forward to seeing your comments.
Let’s face it, the only thing “mysterious” about this cutesy sequel to 2008’s $100M+ adventure to the center of the Earth is the near total failure to explain the absence of “Uncle Trevor” (Brendan Fraser) – short of a one-liner about too many people bailing out on young Sean Anderson, reprised by Josh Hutcherson (RV, Bridge to Terabithia). Okay, and how did Liz Anderson, young Sean’s mom, suddenly transform from blue-eyed blond-haired Jane Wheeler into brown-eyed brunette Kristin Davis of Sex and the City fame? And what happened to all that money young Sean and Uncle Trevor returned with from their first Journey? (Did Uncle Trev split with the dough?) Liz and her new honey, Hank (Dwayne Johnson, more Toothfairy than Walking Tall here), are living in a terribly small Ohio home for a couple with access to the giant diamonds Sean stuffed into his backpack a few years before.
Of course, none of that really mattered to the 7-year-old perched on an unnecessary booster seat next to me as she stuffed her face with popcorn and Welches’ Fruit Snacks. This PG fantasy about giant butterflies, bee rides and miniature sharks was right up her alley. And I must admit that I laughed right along with her at the ludicrous sight of Luis Guzman, (who plays the hapless helicopter-pilot/doting father, Gabato), trying to pick up a multi-ton hunk of gold he’d somehow managed to dig out of volcanic soil with his bare hands in less than an hour. Michael Caine in the role of Sean’s long-lost grandfather, Alexander, was good for the occasional laugh as well.
All in all, this sequel, though completely banal and predictable, is exactly what the elementary school set is looking for in a 3D adventure: some not-too-scary thrills and a whole lot of goo and poop jokes. Seven is about as young as I’d recommend, but if you need to get the kids out of the house and it’s too cold or wet outside for the park, this film is an acceptable alternative…IF you catch the matinee. Honestly, I’d rather have gone with the 3D re-release of Star Wars Episode I, Jar Jar and all, but the kid’s still talking about it so I guess my $17 wasn’t completely wasted.
Everyone knows that Disney’s Beauty & the Beast is a classic. It’s one of the last great films animated the old fashioned way, and even in 3D the amazing artwork shines through. In fact, I’ve got to say the beginning sequence is absolutely breathtaking on the giant digital screen, with almost an Avatar-like immersion experience. Goodness knows the 7 year-old princess parked next to me in the theater was completely drawn in from that first musical note, and the intermittent screams of fear and delight coming from her pint-sized peers in the room certainly indicates she was not alone in that experience.
The only negative I saw was a bit of jitter when the main characters were moving quickly, likely due to the automated layering methods failing to fully separate those characters from the background. These moments were few and far between, but if you’re the queasy type, I recommend you hit the john during Gaston’s big self-titled musical number. Otherwise, the translation to modern tech for this old classic was smooth and worth a matinee ticket. It should be even more fun when Finding Nemo hits the third dimension later this year.
One other downside is worth noting: not 30 seconds after Cinemark kindly and quite loudly reminded audience members that texting during the movie is an eviction-worthy offense , the bonehead in front of me whipped out her Droid and proceeded to answer every little beep it uttered. That is, until I tapped her on the shoulder and politely reminded her it cost me twenty bucks to sit there and read her bright pink, black and white conversations. Now if I can just figure out how to effectively deal with the wiggleworms who invariably kick the back of my seat during the best part of the film.