Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I usually write these summaries long after the film has come and gone from the theaters, and that chronology affects my perspective significantly. If I had reviewed this when it came out, the summary might have concluded, "It's been a very dry summer, and this is about the only thing that might entertain you this week, especially if you're looking for popcorn entertainment." The story is different now. Watching the movie, then looking back on its impressive box-office performance, one must conclude that the proper focus for the article is, "How in the world did this average movie become such a monster hit?"

The answer is that all the planets had to align perfectly, and they did.

1. Jolie and Pitt are just about the biggest stars in the biz, and they are just about the ultimate in potential couples, if the sole criterion is that portion of DNA which controls physical appearance. It would be difficult to name a more beautiful couple, even given a completely blank slate, unrestricted by whether the two people really are a couple. Paul Walker and Jessica Alba? Maybe, but they seem like callow kids, while Pitt and Jolie also have all this talent, all this ... presence. And then the ultimate potential couple seemed to become a couple for real. Not only that, but they never came out and admitted it, and the whole mysterious thing happened in the high media glare which was already upon the Pitt-Aniston relationship.

2. The summer line-ups just seemed to work out perfectly for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The new releases in the previous week were Cinderella Man (a good picture which bombed), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and the Lords of Dogtown. The new releases opening directly against Mr. and Mrs. Smith were The Honeymooners, High Tension, and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl. No popcorn. No humor. Nothing for guys. Nothing even close to a hit. That was a summer weekend, with plenty of movie-going dollars to spread around, but if you were looking for some light summer entertainment that weekend, Mr. and Mrs. Smith was just about your only choice from among the movies of the two most recent weeks. The following week brought Batman Returns, an excellent but deadly earnest film which still left all the comedy dollars on the table for the Smiths.

Everything had to work together. Summer. The Competition. The Stars. The Gossip. Take away any of those elements, and this film loses much of its appeal. Take them all away, and it goes nowhere. Make the same movie with Walker and Alba, have those two remain faithful to their previous lovers, release the film in February against a good comedy ... nothin'.

I suppose every successful movie has a touch of genius and a lot of luck, and this was no exception. It obviously had the luck, and the genius was there as well, although it was not filmmaking genius, but marketing genius.

The basic premise of the film? A deadly assassin has taken a wife just to have a cover. Unbeknownst to him, his wife is also a successful assassin who has done the exact same thing. Neither is aware of the other's true career. One day they both happen to be assigned to the same hit and ... well, you get the idea. Their cover blown, they are soon assigned to kill one another, and then they end up working together, blah blah.

The entire film is essentially a deadpan comedy. There is not one moment when their situations can be viewed as credible. They each have surreptitiously assembled massive stashes of documents, money and ammunition in their home - behind paintings, beneath the tool shed, and in the stove, for example - yet neither of them has ever accidentally stumbled upon the other's secrets in their six years of marriage. Think about that - a brilliant secret agent looking for the best place in the house to hide something never thinks of the same places as the other brilliant secret agent living in the same house. They both work for agencies that basically could not exist, let alone compete with one another. They are apparently both immortal, and virtually invulnerable to harm. They employ technology which does not exist. And so forth. I am not objecting to any of those things, which are all perfectly acceptable in a comedy. I'm simply reciting the litany to identify to you that the film is not meant to exist on any other level besides humor. It's a goof. A $110 million gamble of a goof - and it paid off.

You may construe that my making the following comments indicate my having taken the film far too seriously, and I will not dispute that. It is obvious that the filmmakers knew a thing or two about entertaining people because audiences across the world responded very positively with their pocketbooks. The filmmakers and marketers obviously needed no help from me. But for the record, here are my two main thoughts:

  • The only really funny moments in the film are those which involve Vince Vaughn as an assassin who still lives with his mom. I suppose the best jokes are probably Vaughn's ad-libs. I would have liked the film much better if Vaughn had been given a bigger part, and had actually seemed to be part of the movie instead of something tacked on after the fact. If Vaughn had been woven into the main fabric of the film, as Tom Arnold was in True Lies, it could have been funnier than it was.  And certainly funnier than Tom Arnold.
  • The film is more than two hours long, and the running time is extended not by witty dialogue or creative ideas, but by chase scenes and long gun battles. Of course, since the film is no longer in theaters, that point is no longer crucial. DVD allows us to do the editing which the director failed to do. I experimented, and found out that one can watch this film in 90 minutes on DVD without losing anything even remotely entertaining. I didn't skip any sections, but rather watched them in fast-forward. If you are one of those "half-full" guys, you can spin that very positively: "This film was a major international hit, and is even better on DVD than in the theaters, because the DVD allows you to watch only the material that interests you and to devote only the amount of time you wish to devote." In other words, if you fast-forward through the explosions, car chases, and gun battles, it actually is a pretty tight piece of entertainment.


  • Commentary by: director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg
  • Commentary by: crew
  • Commentary by: producer Lucas Foster and producer Akiva Goldsman
  • 3 deleted scenes
  • Featurette: "Making a scene"


None - neither in the film nor the additional features, but there is a Jolie nipple visible in a down-bra shot, and areola barely visible in another scene.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two and a half    stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4

  • British consensus out of four stars: two stars. Mail 4/10, Telegraph 6/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Sun 8/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 8/10, FT 2/10, BBC 4/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was a mammoth hit. It grossed $186 million in the USA and a phenomenal $262 million overseas. It made a profit despite a substantial cost ($110m)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C, an OK (but not great) popcorn picture.

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