CIA agents and best friends Franklin "FDR" Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck Hansen (Tom Hardy) are deployed to Hong Kong to prevent international criminal Karl Heinrich (Til Schweiger) from acquiring a weapon of mass destruction, but the mission goes awry, resulting in the death of Heinrich's brother, Jonas. Heinrich swears vengeance against them. Upon returning to America, their boss, Collins (Angela Bassett) assigns them to desk duty for their protection.
FDR is a womanizer, whose cover is a cruise ship captain, while Tuck, who presents himself as a travel agent, has an ex-wife, Katie (Abigail Spencer) and a young son, Joe (John Paul Ruttan), who believes his dad is a weakling.
Tuck goes to Joe's karate lesson where Joe loses his match, Tuck tries to give Joe advice but Joe rolls his eyes and asks how he would know since he is just a travel agent. Tuck walks Joe to the car where he attempts to rekindle his connection to his family, but Katie makes excuses as to why they can't go out for supper together.
After being rebuffed by Katie he sees a commercial for online dating. Tuck decides to sign himself up and is paired with Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon), a product-testing executive who is dealing with the recent engagement of her ex-boyfriend. Her best friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler) enrolled her in the same online dating website. FDR insists on being Tuck's backup for the date and hides nearby, but Tuck and Lauren hit it off right away.
Shortly thereafter, FDR runs into Lauren at a video store and tries to flirt with her, not knowing she's Tuck's date. She surmises that he's a ladies' man and ignores him. Intrigued, FDR crashes into one of Lauren's test groups and coerces her to go on a date with him.
FDR and Tuck soon discover that they are seeing the same woman and decide not to tell her that they know each other, not to interfere with each other's dates and not to have sex with her, letting her instead come to a decision between them.
Tuck takes Lauren on a date to a circus (after hours) where they swing on the trapeze and have a really great date.
The date with FDR does not go well at the start, with Lauren storming out of the club FDR takes her to. After arguing in the street, FDR walks away from Lauren but seconds later, Lauren sees her ex-boyfriend and his fiancée approaching. Desperate, Lauren grabs FDR and kisses him and lies to her ex that she and FDR are together, as FDR plays along with the ruse. Her ex and his fiancée both seem jealous at the passion displayed, and later move along. FDR demands that Lauren explain what just happened and suggests they grab some dinner at a nearby pizza parlor, where they talk seriously and hit it off.
Later, after dating both men a few times Lauren feels guilty about dating them at the same time, but is persuaded by Trish to make the best of the situation.
By this time both men have bugged Lauren's home and cell phone so they can spy on her when she is on dates with the other one, they over hear her tell Trish that she is going to need to have sex with them both to decide which one is the right one. This leads to both men taking steps to ensure she does not sleep with the other one.
After a few more dates Lauren and Trisha discuss the pros & cons of dating more than one guy, especially since Tuck has told Lauren he loves her, Trish tells Lauren "don't pick the right guy, pick the guy that'll turn you into a better girl".
After a while, Lauren invites Tuck to lunch, while FDR discovers that Heinrich has arrived in town to exact his revenge. He interrupts Lauren's date to warn Tuck but Tuck doesn't believe him. They engage in an extended fight, after which Lauren discovers that they are in fact best friends and, feeling made a fool of, leaves with Trish. At that moment, the women are kidnapped by Heinrich and his men, who are pursued by FDR and Tuck.
FDR and Tuck rescue Lauren and Trish after a car chase, in which they reveal that they are not who they say they are. On Lauren's advice, they shoot out the headlights on Heinrich's SUV, deploying the airbags and sending the car rolling out of control towards them all. With Lauren standing directly in the path of the approaching SUV, FDR and Tuck, on opposite sides of the road, urge her to come to their side and she is saved as she ultimately chooses FDR's side, while Heinrich dies when his car rolls off the elevated freeway and crashes below. Lauren has decided to be with FDR and Tuck makes amends with him, as they declare their brotherly love for one another, and FDR says they're "family, and forever." Lauren and FDR kiss. The car chase is picked up by the news, Katie and Joe see it, Joe tells his mom that his Dad is not a travel agent.
Later Joe is at his karate lesson with Tuck when Katie comes to pick Joe up. Tuck and Katie reintroduce themselves to each other and she invites him out for supper as a family.
Shortly thereafter, FDR and Tuck go on a mission. They are about to parachute out of a Chinook helicopter when FDR reveals that he will marry Lauren, and asks Tuck to be his best man. He reveals that he had sex with Katie before she met Tuck, but no longer feels guilty about it because Tuck had sex with Lauren. Tuck, however, reveals that they did not go all the way and angrily tackles FDR out of the helicopter.Reese Witherspoon as Lauren Scott, a product-testing executive and the love interest of FDR and Tuck.
Chris Pine as Franklin "FDR" Foster, a womanizer who falls in love with Lauren.
Tom Hardy as Tuck Hansen, a divorced single father who also falls for Lauren, but later makes amends.
Til Schweiger as Karl Heinrich, an international criminal who wants revenge on FDR and Tuck.
Chelsea Handler as Trish, Lauren's best friend who encourages her to keep seeing both men.
John Paul Ruttan as Joe, Tuck's young son.
Abigail Spencer as Katie, Tuck's ex-wife.
Angela Bassett as Collins, FDR and Tuck's boss.
Rosemary Harris as Nana Foster, FDR's grandmother who raised him when his parents died
Jenny Slate as Emily, Lauren's assistant.
According to Entertainment Weekly, "the initial script dates back [...] at least about a decade," with Bradley Cooper, Seth Rogen, and Sam Worthington reportedly turning down the lead role. Going back even further, Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock also declined the part. Screenwriter Larry Doyle claimed to have read the script in 1998, and that in the draft the protagonists were video game designers with access to guided missiles.
Principal photography took place in Vancouver from September 13 to December 1, 2010.
This Means War was previously scheduled for wide release on February 14, but 20th Century Fox postponed its opening to February 17, 2012, in order "to avoid a head-on confrontation with" Screen Gems' The Vow, which had been "expected to dominate" the box office on Valentine's Day. Instead, it was sneak previewed that "Tuesday evening at between 2,000 and 2,500 locations nationwide." During its first weekend ending February 19, it opened at #5 behind Safe House, The Vow, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island with $17.4 million from 3,189 locations. The following weekend, it dropped to #7 behind newcomers Act of Valor and Tyler Perry's Good Deeds with $8.4 million. After a 17-week theatrical run, it earned $54,760,791 domestically and $101,730,488 overseas for a worldwide total of $156,491,279.
The film was released to DVD and Blu-ray Disc on May 22, 2012 with a rating of PG-13.
The film opened to mostly negative reviews. Based upon 165 reviews, it received a 26% "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 4.3/10 with the consensus saying, "A career lowlight for all three of its likable stars, This Means War is loud, clumsily edited, and neither romantic nor funny." On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 31 out of 100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone found this "action-spiked romcom [...] death-sentenced by a lack of humor, heart and a coherent reason for being. I could say more, but do I really need to?" Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times considered the film "an incompetent stupid action comedy" that was "so bad it's nothing else but bad" and observed that Witherspoon lacked the "irresistible raw sex appeal" to be "convincing as the woman [Hardy and Pine] go to war over." Richard Roeper of ReelzChannel called the film "one of the worst movies of this or any other year" and mocked Handler, who looked old, "lost," and "haggard" while delivering "her lines in a kind of flat monotone."
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post ridiculed the film for being "spectacularly awful" and "riddled with continuity errors," suggesting that it "has a script whose sensible parts would fit on a napkin with enough room left over for the Gettysburg Address." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter recommended "the whole picture" be "sent back for a reshoot" as it "manages to embarrass its three eminently attractive leading players in every scene" and disapproved of Handler's performance, noting that she "has no sense of creating a character." James Berardinelli of ReelViews dismissed the film as "a 98-minute music video without the music -- all splash and little heart," joking that "we keep hoping the sleazy bad guy will show up and shoot" the main characters.
Claudia Puig of USA Today opined that "silly action sequences grow tedious and rarely blend with the wannabe madcap comedy" and concluded that McG "can't seem to decide whether he's making a spy action flick with romance interspersed or a rom-com peppered with action." Mary Pols of Time criticized the film's "terrible sense of chemistry all the way around" and declared that "even the pairing of Witherspoon and Handler [...] turns out to be a dud." Peter Debruge of Variety thought Hardy and Pine "are too busy trying to out-appeal one another to make the buddy dynamic click" and wondered if "it's the pic's cartoonish tone that keeps them from doing much more than look pretty, trading on the stars' blue eyes and impossibly big lips in lieu of their proven acting ability."
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly "enjoyed everything that's all over the place about the finished product" and stated that while it "may have been hammered together by brute Hollywood force, [...] there's this going for it: It's game to throw in anything that'll keep the motor running." Tom Long of The Detroit News characterized the film as "unpretentious goofiness" with "some nice light yuks" and believed "the whole sublimely stupid mess works." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times warned that "if you can get past the gross invasion of privacy," there "is some bittersweet fun peppered by bursts of sharp patter," especially from Hardy and Pine, who electrified "the screen almost any time they're sharing it."