Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself in a jam when the two men (Tom Hardy, Chris Pine) she’s dating confront each other in “This Means War.” The movie involves two CIA agents whose friendship is strained when they both go after the same girl.

20th Century Fox/Courtesy

Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself in a jam when the two men (Tom Hardy, Chris Pine) she’s dating confront each other in “This Means War.” The movie involves two CIA agents whose friendship is strained when they both go after the same girl.

At the Movies: ‘This Means War’ means a good time

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“This Means War”

3 out of 4 stars

120 minutes

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Til Schweiger.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

You know the old saying about the only time when “all’s fair” no matter what the conditions.

In “This Means War,” the two environments of that old chestnut combine like you’ve never seen before.

In their operations as CIA agents, FDR Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck Henson (Tom Hardy) always have each other’s backs even when things don’t go as planned. Such is the case with their latest mission, in which a renowned terrorist (Til Schweiger) eludes their capture and swears to track them down and kill them.

But, there are worse things than being responsible for a dangerous criminal on the loose. For Tuck, the stresses of the job are nothing compared to his need to find someone to come home to at night.

His search for companionship turns up Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon), who, through the magic of online dating, is a perfect match for him. Only moments after meeting Tuck, Lauren bumps into his partner and is just as taken with him, unaware she’s now involved with two best buddies.

It doesn’t take long for the guys to compare notes, and both are unwilling to step out of the picture, leading them to make an agreement that they’ll let Lauren decide between them. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t gain an advantage with some unusual tactics, meaning one thing: Game on.

The last time Witherspoon played a woman juggling two different men was in the horrendous flop “How Do You Know.”

Playing consumer product tester Lauren, she’s not only easier to understand as she evaluates both her potential soul mates and faces the tricky job of picking the best man, but she’s much more in her element of being irrepressibly sweet and spunky.

As for the two guys on her plate, both have their good points and bad.

As you’d expect from the guy who played a young Capt. James T. Kirk, Pine is smooth as silk as well-dressed FDR — whose insistence at having the initials of our 32nd president as a nickname remains a mystery — even if Lauren is turned off by what she describes as tiny tyrannosaurus hands.

As divorced single father Tuck, Hardy shows himself capable of being an easygoing guy, taking a break from the hard-boiled roles he’s played in “Inception,” “Warrior” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and will play again as the villain of this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The big chink in his armor as far as Lauren’s concerned: He’s British.

Enough said about that.

Guiding Lauren through the choppy waters of dating is her married friend Trish, with coarse comedienne and talk show host Chelsea Handler at her best giving overly detailed relationship advice that would make a Marine blush.

Even she can’t predict what will happen from two guys who have all the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency at their fingertips and little restraint in ramping up their rivalry.

We can only hope real CIA agents wouldn’t spend their time setting up aerial surveillance, bugging each other’s homes and shooting their partners with tranquilizer darts in order to find romance.

Then again, love does make you do crazy things, and when the two suitors aren’t trying to sabotage the other’s dates and just let their guards down, they’re both pretty great guys, as seen with FDR and his nana (Rosemary Harris) and Tuck with his son (John Paul Ruttan).

Fortunately the mushy stuff is kept to a minimum, and the greater part of the story is either laugh out loud comedy or slam-bang action, all shot with a vibrant color scheme that makes everything pop.

This is exactly the kind of project director McG should do henceforth. Though he can’t be trusted with a multi-layered science fiction franchise favorite like the most recent “Terminator” movie, he can most certainly pull off a light piece of cotton candy like this providing he has the right cast.

The people involved in the love triangle of “This Means War” make it better than the usual romantic comedy, while the action stylized by McG completes the equation. As a date movie, it’s a sure-fire show to get some good entertainment, at least on first viewing.

If you’re planning to view it on multiple occasions with multiple partners, that might be a different story.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

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