McG returns to colourful froth after his attempt at gritty with the patchily entertaining Terminator Salvation. This plays like a mash-up of True Lies (spies operating surveillance on a partner) and Mr & Mrs Smith (spies duking it over love), with best bud spies Chris Pine and Tom Hardy competing to win Reese Witherspoon (she's oblivious to this contest).
But to work it requires stars with easy charm and a breezy confidence in calling the shots on the adversarial antics. It doesn't have either, making heavy weather of the material. McG over-directs as usual, but where this worked in Charlie's Angels favour here he makes every scene laboured. And his MTV approach to soundtracking the action never felt more tired.
Pine and Hardy sound like great casting on paper, but they don't really spark off each other. Worse, Hardy is glaringly miscast (and I'm a fan). He doesn't have the lightness of touch for this sort of material. Pine fares better, but he's looking to be stereotyped as a cocky smirker and I spent too much time wondering at his over-sized head. Reece Witherspoon's done this slightly kooky thing many times before and certainly in better-written films. She's okay, but completes the chemistry-free triangle. Probably because she's been a name for a good decade, I thought she was quite a bit older than the lads, but she's only a year older than Hardy and four older than Pine.
The best character is Witherspoon's sister, played by the slightly scary looking Chelsea Handler. The funny lines are all hers, no doubt improvised. There are some decent ideas in there (relentlessly sabotaging each other's dates, the best of which is the fake family Pine substitutes for the fake family Hardy has employed to impress Witherspoon) but the plot is so half-baked that by the time Witherspoon chooses who she wants to be with you have no idea why she made the choice she did. And the loser is manoeuvred into an inevitable scenario that only goes to underline how vacuous and shallow the whole exercise is. Did I say it was a McG film?