In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
Follow Thomas Leupp on Twitter.
Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter.
The Walt Disney/Robert Zemeckis connection has been terminated. The Hollywood Reporter says that late yesterday the Mouse House decided to permanently dock the Oscar-winning director's planned remake of The Beatles' beloved 1968 film Yellow Submarine, which was announced in August 2009 before his take on A Christmas Carol failed to make miraculous amounts of cash. On the heels of a $6.9 million opening weekend for his latest production, the sci-fi family film Mars Needs Moms, the studio has apparently had enough of his shenanigans.
It's no surprise, really. In May 2010, after the grim reality that A Christmas Carol was an official flop became clear, Disney shut down Zemeckis' ImageMovers shingle and was letting the fate of Yellow Submarine rest on the commercial performance of Mars Needs Moms, which cost $150 million just to produce. Two back-to-back big-budget bombs for any filmmaker is enough to cause panic, and the fact that he couldn't get the Beatles' heirs in a room for a key presentation of test footage after a canceled date in December (which was never rescheduled) just compounded the negativity. Disney is simply acting according to procedure with today's move.
Zemeckis' Yellow Submarine was to employ the same performance capture technology he'd used on The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol and was set to star Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell. Though getting kicked off of the Disney lot is a major setback, THR notes that the filmmaker is now free to shop the project around to other studio's, though I can't imagine any company biting after the rocky returns on his recent films. Zemeckis is said to have fled Tinsel Town for Montana, where he'll regroup and decide what his next move is.
My two cents for Mr. Z? Enough with the mo-cap movies. Get back to live-action filmmaking. This is the guy who made Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and Contact. The Polar Express was good and all and I love Beowulf, but the process is just too expensive to justify putting all that energy into. The longer he stays in animated territory, the more clout he loses. There's a wealth of good scripts out there just dying to get produced; a man with as much pedigree as Zemeckis should look to reinvent himself once again as this performance-capture chapter of his career comes to a close.
First we had the 70th birthday of John Lennon over the weekend. Then yesterday we had footage surface of Eric Stoltz as the original Marty McFly in Back to the Future. And today we have a weird hybrid of those two stories: Robert Zemeckis’ (Director of BTTF) 3D motion-capture remake of Yellow Submarine (popular Beatles’ song and movie) is still happening and starts filming in April (see the connection now?).
Also, further strange little side note - Eric Stoltz directed last night’s episode of Glee. Just thought I’d share that.
Anyway, while at the New York Comic Con, Cary Elwes confirmed that Yellow Submarine was still happening and filming begins in April. Now is this just a diversion? After all, April is pretty far off and this gives us plenty of time to forget about it or is it actually happening for real? Is Cary Elwes that devious? I’m going to have to say no.
Another strange side note - I loved Elwes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but I don’t really see what the big deal is with The Princess Bride. I mean, its a good movie but I didn’t think it was that funny? Sue me. Please don’t.
Back to the movie. Elwes has been cast as George Harrison. Dean Lennox Kelly will be playing John Lennon. Kelly is kind of amazing in his turn as Shakespeare in Doctor Who which I’m sure you all saw and by gosh, I am making that show popular in the US whether Americans like it or not. If you haven’t been watching Running Wilde, you are missing out on the delight that is Peter Serafinowicz who will be playing Paul McCartney. And the lovable Ringo Starr will be played by Adam Campbell.
Wait, what’s this? Adam Campbell dates Jayma Mays, the lovable Emma on Glee? Is the whole news cycle collapsing in on itself? Should I be worried? Do I need to get duct tape? Or is this just an instance of me reading too much into pure coincidences because Hollywood is a relatively small community of members who constantly work on other people’s projects? Nah, definitely a conspiracy.
Source: The Playlist
The British comedian only got to utter a few lines in the Star Wars prequels, but his Hollywood career has since taken off, with roles in Run Fatboy Run and Couples Retreat.
And now Liverpool-native Serafinowicz has been recruited to Robert Zemeckis' forthcoming animated remake of the 1968 film.
John Lennon will be played by Dean Lennox Kelly, George Harrison by Cary Elwes and Ringo Starr by Adam Campbell.
The soundtrack will be performed by Beatles tribute band The Fab Four.
Robert Zemeckis has found his fab four. In negotiations to play The Beatles for the director's Yellow Submarine are Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell, according to the Heat Vision blog.
Kelly, currently on the BBC's Robin Hood series, is portraying John Lennon; Serafinowicz, who appeared in Shaun of the Dead and Couples Retreat, is Paul McCartney; Elwes, who worked with Zemeckis on A Christmas Carol, will play George Harrison; and Campbell, whose credits include Epic Movie and Date Movie, will be Ringo Starr.
Zemeckis is remaking the 1968 animated movie for Disney using 3D performance-capture technology. He also wrote the screenplay and is producing with his Imagemovers Digital partners Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey.
Because actual Beatles music will be utilized (licensed from Sony/ATV and EMI-Capitol Records) the actors will not actually be performing the 16 songs used in the movie, HV notes.