A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that This Means War is a romantic comedy-meets-spy thriller with lots of sexual innuendo, passionate kissing, and action violence (including shooting and some deaths, though nothing particularly graphic). The language includes one use of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "d--k," and the like. There's one love scene and several references to sex (including doing it with two guys as a "tiebreaker") and many make-out scenes. Although the movie's premise is comical, it can also send the iffy message that lying about who you are can win someone's heart. Note: The movie was initially rated R but was re-rated PG-13 upon appeal.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
CIA partners FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are best friends who have each other's back at all times ... until they both fall for the same woman, Lauren (Reese Witherspoon). When they realize that they're both seeing her, the pals agree to compete for her affection and then enlist their coworkers to start spying on her to get the inside track to win her heart. Meanwhile, the spies have to contend with Heinrich (Til Schweiger), a vengeful international arms dealer whose brother died because of FDR and Tuck. But they're too busy wooing Lauren to realize that the German baddie has figured out exactly how to enact his revenge.
Is it any good?
THIS MEANS WAR's premise is admittedly cute, and it stars a trio of appealing, talented actors, but it doesn't have much else going for it. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on anything but a few easy laughs and a constant reminder that Witherspoon is one of Hollywood's irresistible sweethearts. Its downfall is that the central love triangle features the stereotypical foils of a fun-loving and sweet (read: boring) single dad (Hardy) versus a womanizing cad with a secret heart of gold (read: edgy), played by Pine.
These guys act like fraternity brothers who've bet on who can bed a girl first, all under the guise of discovering true love. But true love isn't based on subterfuge and spies. And regardless of whom Lauren chooses, neither man is truly worthy of her, because they both lie to her and endanger their friendship in the process. Sure, there's a supposedly happy ending, but it feels like the decks are fundamentally stacked against the nice guy, since he doesn't undergo a big personality change during the courtship. While all three leads have all been great in other films, this one is a forgettable disappointment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why so many movies, books, and more revolve around the premise of a love triangle. What's the appeal of that kind of story? Do you think it's a realistic situation?
What messages does This Means War send about relationships? Do you think Lauren treats one or both of the men unfairly? Are the men wrong to spy on Lauren to get ahead in the competition for her love? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding love and relationships.
Tuck's ex-wife becomes interested in him again when she finds out he's really a CIA agent. Are women only interested in men with "cool" or well-paying jobs? Would you want to be in a relationship with someone whose interest in you was based on your job?
- In theaters: February 14, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2012
- Cast: Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy
- Director: McG
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including references, some violence and action, and for language (on appeal; previously rated R)
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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