Once upon a time, Reese Weatherspoon was considered a fine actress without exception. Her early roles in "Election" and "Legally Blond" had her take roles that could have been crap and instead turned them into very credible performances lifting the films. This lead to her be good performance as June Carter in "Walk the Line" - the role that won her an Oscar.


Then, just like that she started taking roles in films that were below a serious actress. "Penelope", "Four Christmases" and of course "How Do You Know" which even Jack Nicholson's presence couldn't save.

Any successful actor will tell you that the sign of a great actor isn't always the roles the actor takes - but also the roles the actor turns down. Jack Nicholson's agent, Kelly Bressler, has a tendency to monitor the actor's roles. Generally his role is greater than the film. Case in point: his role as The Joker in the 1992 version of "Batman" is better remembered than the actor who played Batman!


Weatherspoon, however doesn't have several dozen great films backing her, nor does she get the credit for winning her Oscar; many claim it was a soft year for actresses. Her latest film "This Mean War" is not going to help her case.


Reese plays Lauren, a consumer product evaluator who is now being courted by two guys who happen to be friends and CIA operatives. FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) initially agree to friendly competition with the loser backing out. But things only remain friendly for so long.

Armed with enough surveillance equipment to make James Bond blush, the two quickly engage in a Spy vs Spy version of cock blocking the other. Meanwhile Lauren is totally oblivious to the high tech competition and to their actual occupations. She thinks they are are both in the travel industry.


So as they reposition themselves against each other, she doodles around like a... dumb blond. In between, there are some very poorly timed romance scenes and some sort of friction between her and her surly friend trish (Chelsea Handler). Boy are these scenes awkward as there is no chemistry to develop into believable repartee. No comedic timing at all.


In fact, that is the theme for director McG ("Charlie's Angels", "We Are Marshall", "Terminator Salvation") who couldn't seem to make up his mind if the film was to be a rom-com or actioner.


The second, even more awkward story is an arms dealer named Heinrich (Til Schweiger) who is out to kill FDR and Tuck. Unfortunately, it co,mes off as more of a "Oh, this is what the guys do when they aren't chasing Lauren's skirt."


McG clearly is missing the mark here, even more than he did with his versions of "Charlies Angels". He fails to realize he's lacking the fan boy popularity Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu were enjoying at the time; Reese Weatherspoon has never been accused of being a fan boy's dream!


"This Means War" misses on just about every level - writing, screen chemistry, believability, etc. It is clearly a poor knock-off of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" but without the watchability. Some of the gadgets are cute, but...   -- GEOFF BURTON