THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"MR. & MRS. SMITH"

John and Jane Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) sit in the office of a marriage counselor. There is a palpable tension between them. The couple canít even agree on how long theyíve been married (he thinks itís five years, she insists that itís been six). What they do agree on is that they met, had a whirlwind courtship, then tied the knot. And now things have cooled off considerably. Part of the problem may be the fact that the Smiths keep secrets from one another. Both are assassins who work for competing government agencies, yet neither of them knows the otherís true occupation. This is the set-up for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a dark comedy that examines martial friction by taking things to the extreme.

Eventually Ė for reasons I wonít give away Ė John and Jane are assigned to kill each other after they cross paths on a job. The revelation that they are assassins comes as a shock to both. They donít have much hesitation about killing each other, though; the motivation is already there - all they needed was the excuse. Because they are both very good at their jobs, the Smiths are not easily killed. They manage to outsmart each other at every turn. Things come to a head during a protracted gun battle inside their own home. After nearly demolishing their house, the couple realizes that the whole cat-and-mouse game has beenÖkind of a turn-on. Reconciliation seems possible, but their respective agencies wonít stand for it.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is like The War of the Roses combined with one of those ďSpy vs. SpyĒ cartoons that used to run in Mad magazine. There are horrible acts of violence committed on screen, yet the film inserts moments of physical comedy that temper the brutality and make us laugh. Part of the joy of the film is that the comedic moments are often unexpected; this is not a movie where you see all the jokes coming. It can be really difficult to combine violence and humor, but director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) finds the right tone. The screenplay by Simon Kinberg also features a lot of snappy back-and-forth dialogue that calls to mind the screwball comedies of old. For example, after Jane tries unsuccessfully to kill John in an elevator, he thanks her for ďgiving me the shaft.Ē

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are, itís pretty safe to say, the two sexiest actors working today. Iíve yet to meet a woman who didnít swoon over the mere thought of Pitt, nor have I found a guy who doesnít drool at the first sight of Jolie. Putting them together on the same screen certainly promises fireworks, and on that count the film does not disappoint. Aside from looking great together, the stars demonstrate a hot chemistry. Their comical banter is delivered to great effect, especially in a scene where the Smiths dance a tango while simultaneously frisking each other for weapons. Sometimes actors create a little piece of movie magic together, which is exactly what happens here.

Vince Vaughn co-stars as Pittís high-strung best friend/colleague. He earns a lot of laughs in this uncredited cameo.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a pretty simple movie. There isnít so much a plot as an idea which the film riffs on from start to finish. You can look at it from a number of different angles. Itís about the need to keep a spark going in marriage. Itís about how overindulging in oneís job can negatively affect things at home. Itís certainly about the perils of having a lack of communication in a romance. I was amused by the way the movie looked at martial issues from an exaggerated point of view. Even at its most extreme, Mr. & Mrs. Smith has its finger on the pulse of some simple truths about the importance of working at marriage rather than just giving up at the first sign of trouble.

Thereís a lot of mayhem in the picture Ė shootings, chase scenes, fights Ė and it becomes somewhat repetitive, especially toward the end. Regardless, there is a lot worth recommending here. I laughed quite frequently at the humor, I admired the point that was made, and I was captivated watching these two insanely good-looking movie stars doing their thing together. Mr. & Mrs. Smith is exactly the kind of entertainment that brings us into the theaters during summer.

( out of four)


Mr. & Mrs. Smith is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, intense action, sexual content and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 59 minutes.

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