It has long been a Hollywood specialty to reflect on the everyday experiences of ordinary Americans – reflect, that is, in its own special and at times comically exaggerated way. Few films bank on this theme as much as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” a star vehicle to say the least, but one that floats without the towering presence of “Brangelina” because of its sharp wit and explosive action sequences.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith – John and Jane (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) – are just your average suburban couple. Both too busy to even speak to each other for more than a few moments every day, neither really knows the details of the other’s occupation. But theirs isn’t an insignificant detail like assistant manager vs. assistant to the manager: The secrets they keep are enough to literally end each other’s lives.
In its first half, the movie plays up the story of the two lethal assassins unknowingly married to each other. With exceptional expertise, it handles the underlying theme of the turbulence and superficiality of American marriage with masterful subtlety. Even with their schedules booked solid with assassination missions, the Smiths still find time to argue about curtains and seek marriage counseling.
An unexpected though pleasant surprise is the astute satire of traditional marital roles. Being the average suburban, John naturally hides his secret cache of weapons in the storehouse of his manly endeavors, the toolshed. Similarly, where else would Jane hide her weapons other than the kitchen – the humble workspace of the traditional housewife?
As insightful as the wit and satire are, the audience comes for bangs, and they will not be disappointed. By this time the plot is in shambles, held down by the inane need for show over substance. The last of third of the film is non-stop, all-out escapist action. Perhaps the film should be reprimanded for falling so fast and inexplicably into a run-of-the-mill Hollywood racket, but the sequences are well executed and crowd-pleasers at the least.
The deleted scenes provide an extended cut of the film’s most thrilling sequence, just in case 10 minutes of perpetual gunshots just didn’t cut it. The other deleted scenes are insignificant, featuring little more than failed attempts at comic relief from the inexplicable, though persistently enjoyable Vince Vaughn. The short “Making the Scene” featurette is bearable but adds nothing to the overall package.
Any given summer, a multitude of films come out that resemble “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and their audience will find this film better than most. Though it feels over-extended and depends on a thinly crafted storyline, those looking for a smart film will be pleasantly surprised. Everyone else, of course, will be too busy ogling at the two stars and continuous action to fail to be entertained.
Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Picture/Sound: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars
Special Features: 3 out of 5 stars