The turn of the millennium was a crazy era for the common man. We'd horde together in packs of six, set up camp in the trenches of the nearest coffee house in lieu of our established workplaces, keep farm fowl as pets, and fall in love with our closest companions with only hijinks (and the occasional dramatic twist during sweeps) as the weightiest of consequences. But ever since that fateful Thursday evening in May of 2004, we've been lost. Lost without our Friends. Yes, these past nine years have been decidedly empty without that West Village sextet to guide us. And the friends themselves have felt a bit out of sorts, too: Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow reunited on Friday when the former took a guest hosting gig on Piers Morgan Tonight, vocalizing a shared wish that their beloved NBC sitcom had never ended.
"If I had a time machine," Perry said, "I would like to go back to 2004 and not have stopped." Kudrow added, "If it were up to us ... I would keep going." She continued: "There would have come a time, anyway, when someone would have said, 'We've had enough.' But, why not have fun until they do."
We've had enough. We can't imagine ever uttering those words in regards to seasons of Friends, but the time might have come eventually. Think about what we might have seen if the show had kept airing through to the present. A nice idea, sure, but, some of it wouldn't be pretty...
Monica and Chandler, living a quiet life in Westchester with 9-year-old children Jack and Erica, grow stir crazy in the dull suburbs without the pseudo-psychotic antics brought on by their Manhattan-affixed friends. The married couple tries to incite the same kind of madcap shenanigans with their new neighbors, inviting relative strangers over for trivia competitions that would result in house swapping bets, but just end up alienating themselves from the rest of the town. Their children become pariahs as a result and run away from home the first chance they get.
Ross and Rachel, raising baby Emma together in the city, continue to bicker about the unresolved nature of their "break." Additionally, Rachel fosters resentment over having never taken that new job, and life, in Paris, taking her anger out on Ross as he reverts back to a rage only previously seen in episodes of sandwich theft.
Joey moves to L.A. and gets his own spin-off. It's terrible.
Phoebe enjoys a wonderfully happy life, however, having been the only adult mature enough to branch beyond her codependent group of friends and marry someone outside of her social circle. She and Mike Flanagan enjoy a healthy albeit quirky relationship, reveling in one another's eccentricities, often visiting Phoebe's brother and sister-in-law and their three children, with whom she maintains a close and loving relationship. She's still kind of insane, though.
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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.
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