My wife and I see a lot of movies, I more then she, and I think we’re both fairly discerning when it comes to the quality of what we’re seeing. I know it takes a really awful flick for me to consider walking out before the closing credits. And though I know I’ve done it once or twice, I can’t remember the titles of the walked-out-on. They must have been so bad, so unmemorable, that I drew a mental line through them. Yesterday, we went to see This Means War, with Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy. About forty-five minutes after it began, I looked at Rosalie and asked, “Well, have we had enough?” She agreed with a chuckle. We made our way down the steps, passing half a dozen people sitting near the exit. I wanted to ask them why they weren’t joining us in our exodus. But I didn’t. Why was it bad enough to abandon? Let me count the ways. But first, the plot. Two CIA agents, best friends, meet a woman and both decide she’s the one for them. The woman, Reese Witherspoon, dates both of them, unaware that they know each other. The title has to do with the war between these two friends in their battle to win Reese’s heart. That tired plot device alone might have made it worthy of our scorn, but there were plenty of other false elements. The CIA headquarters in LA was unrealistically elaborate, with the two operatives unrealistically sitting around with nothing better to do than engage in a contest of shooting paperballs in a wastebasket. Then both of them use the spy capabilities of the bureau to listen in on Reese’s phone calls, watch her in her apartment, listen to her and her girl friend as they talk about the two men she’s dating. Not just unrealistic but also very illegal, unethical, immoral. And stupid. In a sub-plot, a terrorist vows to avenge his brother, who was killed in a covert operation involving both CIA friends, who nonchalantly kill about a dozen bad guys and then walk away joking about it. One would also have to wonder how much CIA operatives make. Both wore $3,000 suits, drove fancy little sports cars, lived in lavish apartments. The action scenes were filmed rapid fire with chaotic cameras to recreate reality. I don’t know that such scenes are even close to reality. Then, to convince Reese that he’s really not just a quiet, unassuming guy, Tuck takes her on a paintball battle and proceeds to annihilate all and every opponent. Really, truly dumb. We don’t know which of them finally wins Reese’s heart and hand. And we don’t care.
Today, I decided to test my perspicuity by seeing another movie, this time Gone, with Amanda Seyfried playing Jill, an escapee from a hostage situation, a young woman whom no one believes was really kidnapped. She’s been put on meds, gone to shrinks, was institutionalized for a while. She keeps pleading with everyone, especially the police, to believe her, that there really is a bad guy out there who takes, imprisons in a deep hole in the woods, and then kills any number of young females just like Jill. And then her sister, who has been living with her to keep her company and help control her madness, goes missing, and Jill just knows it’s the same guy who had taken her and was now out for revenge because she was the only one who had escaped. The entire plot involves her flight from the disbelieving police and her attempts to find where her sister is being held. Although Amanda Seyfield looked a bit bug-eyed and frantic throughout, causing even the viewer to wonder whether she was delusional or telling the truth, the suspense was believable enough to make the movie worthwhile. And the opening segments that followed her as she made her way through the park, through a depth of Oregon pine forest, trying to find the pit where she was held, were beautiful. Oh, yes, and it also set another mark for me: One of the detectives, a young woman who also disbelieved Jill's story, should win an Oscar for the ugliest hairstyle in the history of film. What was the director thinking when he allowed her to show up looking like that? And the movie, not great, was good enough for me to recommend it. But then, when I used This Means War as my benchmark for quality, almost anything would come out looking pretty good.