What happened to Reese Witherspoon's career? In This Means War, a "cheesy" spy-flick–meets-romantic-comedy directed by Charlie's Angels' McG that hits theaters Friday, the once-acclaimed actress plays Lauren, the love object of best-bud CIA agents Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine). Since winning the Best Actress Oscar for Walk the Line in 2006, Witherspoon has delivered a series of box office and critical disappointments, and few expect War to break the losing streak. As the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips advises Witherspoon in his review, "This Means War is the sort of consumer product you're supposed to test before you win an Academy Award, not after." Is she throwing away her talents?
What was Reese thinking? If movies had a scent, This Means War would "reek of cheap cologne," says Mary Pols in TIME. The "hyper saturated color and lighting scheme" makes everyone look bad, both FDR and Tuck are casually misogynistic, and even the promising pairing of "ladylike Oscar winner" Witherspoon with "foul-mouthed late night comedy queen" Chelsea Handler falls flat. Still, "the one to worry about is Reese Witherspoon." She's better than "immature garbage like this." Could she not "smell disaster?"
"Who is the victor in This Means War? Not the viewer"
Let Witherspoon have some fun: Is the movie "totally frothy"? Yes, says Leah Rozen at The Wrap. But "that’s a good thing, at least here." In this deliberately un-ponderous "adult version of Mad magazine's venerable Spy vs. Spy feature," Witherspoon "gives a likable performance, always impressing as just a little smarter and more competent than either of her swains." Sure, This Means War isn't Oscar bait, but at a time when Hollywood seems to have lost the knack of making "glossy, light-hearted fare," it's shamelessly entertaining.
"Spy vs. Spy love triangle makes peace with its frothiness"
Witherspoon has to pay the bills somehow: Like any good romantic comedy, the movie "is full of longing looks, tender touches, and deep professions of eternal love," says Stephen Whitty in New Jersey's The Star-Ledger. "Unfortunately, they all pass between Pine and Hardy." It's a little embarrassing seeing Witherspoon play "such a disposable character," but that's what she signed up for. She may have won an Oscar for a biopic, but "rom-coms pay her bills, and if taking parts like this keep her in the game," who can blame her?
"This Means War: A bromantic comedy"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- The U.S. dollar has been strengthening for 3 straight years! (That's not good news.)
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- Can we lead spiritually fulfilling lives without religion?
Subscribe to the Week