Let me just say right up front that I don't really care what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie do in the privacy of their bedroom as long as I can read about it in the next day's newspaper. Or see clips on "Access Hollywood." Or sit through an entire frigging hour of "Primetime Live" in the hopes that Diane Sawyer will get out of Brad what Jennifer was unable to get until it was too late: an admission that Jolie is capable of breaking up the happiest of Hollywood marriages. Aniston, the Debbie Reynolds in this rather familiar scenario, should take comfort in the fact that, after Liz Taylor stole Eddie Fisher from America's Sweetheart, she then dumped him for Richard Burton. If I were Pitt, I'd be finding out who Jolie's next costar is. Russell Crowe, anyone?
Forgive me. I don't usually indulge in such fanatic speculation, but Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which stars Pitt and Jolie as a husband and wife who've hit the seven-year itch at the five-or-six-year mark, is such a perfect example of the celebrity industrial complex at work that I can't stop myself. Like "Bennifer," "Brangelina" represents a harmonic convergence of star power, but this time, for reasons I don't entirely understand, the force fields build on one another instead of canceling each other out. Gigli, I fully intend to argue until my dying day, was a perfectly enjoyable movie, but it's gone down in the history books as a real stinker. As for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I could practically feel the good vibes flowing from the audience to the screen. What gives?
Maybe people simply realize that these two snake charmers -- as much charisma in one room as when Cary Grant dined alone -- belong together, no matter whose grandmother they had to walk over to get there. They complete each other. They're each other's arm candy. And Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where they play hired assassins who haven't gotten around to telling each other what they do for a living, turns out to be the perfect vehicle, keeping them apart (not to mention at each other's throats) until the audience is all but screaming for them to kiss and make up. That Mr. & Mrs. Smith is also thoroughly entertaining -- a knock-down, dragout comedy that does for marriage what Titanic did for ocean crossings -- is icing on the cake.
When the movie opens, John and Jane Smith have arrived at a suburban cul-desac. Neither seems capable of surprising the other anymore, meanwhile slipping out the back door to take care of business. And some of the movie's best moments are when they've each figured out what's going on but haven't figured out that the other has figured it out. Naturally, they're upset. And so they do what any cold-blooded killer would do under the circumstances: They go after each other. "I missed you," Jane says after a hard day at the office. "I missed you, too," John says. And indeed he did, by mere inches. It isn't long before the cat's out of the bag, of course, and it isn't long after that before the Smiths' charming home has been reduced to a smoldering ruin. This is what happens when spouses keep little secrets from each other.
A screwball comedy welded to a Hong Kong-style action flick, Mr. & Mrs. Smith keeps disappearing in a hail of bullets, but director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) knows how to score laughs amidst such mayhem. And he's given the movie a wonderful pulse, picking up on the Latin rhythms of the opening scenes, set in Bogota, Colombia. Eventually, having launched themselves on their second honeymoon, the Smiths perform an actual tango, using the opportunity to search each other for concealed weapons. "That's all John," John tells his wife, referring to the most concealed weapon of them all. An actor who's at his best when he lies back, eases into a role, Pitt runs the risk of Jolie mopping up the screen with him. But for now, they seem content to bask in each other's glow, combine their wattages. Should the situation change, you'll be the first to know.