While I’m well aware that it is, on many levels, beautifully crafted garbage, I have to confess I found myself enjoying – for a minute here and there – Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There’s the snarky pleasure of watching the incandescent Angelina Jolie wipe up the screen with the game but outmatched Brad Pitt, along with its frisson of fan empathy (upon seeing Ms. Jolie, after dispatching a victim, effortlessly rappel down a skyscraper with her supple bare thighs gleaming above long black leather boots, I groaned a sympathetic “Oh, Jen…” as in: poor girl never had a chance).
But the most fun, I guiltily admit, comes during one of the momentary lulls between all the scenes of brutally high body-count carnage (as David Denby noted in the New Yorker, the movie helps you understand why people in other countries think Americans are insane). That’s when the now-unmasked husband and wife assassins have just destroyed their home in attempting to kill each other before achieving an erotic truce. The Smiths begin confessing the formerly unrevealed facts about their real identities. Mrs. Smith, picking bits of shattered glass out of her hair, admits “I can’t feel anything in these three fingers,” with a wry smile. “I’m practically deaf in this ear,” Mr. Smith counters, not to be outdone. And they go on like that, these dueling revelations becoming a motif that climaxes a few scenes later in the midst of an over-the-top car chase, with Jolie’s topper: “I’m Jewish.”
It’s in this skewed version of post-coital pillow talk that one briefly hears The Movie That Got Pitched in the First Place (i.e. secret assassins as a metaphor for the old “who is this person I married?!” conundrum), which was clearly better than The Movie They Ended Up With. The latter, despite its whopper of an opening weekend, is confoundingly lame in such small matters as basic plot logic, and doesn’t, after all the CGI sound and fury, even have an ending. But here and there, amidst the horrific video game-like casual bloodletting, little droll moments of marriage-as-war-with-benefits amusement peek through, and for this hardcore rom-commer, it was almost worth the trip.