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Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Often there are movies that come out during the year that I’m glad to get the chance to re-evaluate on DVD. At least once a year there comes a film that I remember less fondly then I should have. Due to a faulty ending, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is one of those movies - a film that has borne the brunt of its weak conclusion despite the fact that the rest of the film is not only really cool, but is pretty intelligent as well. Anyone who’s been through a divorce knows it’s like no other breakup on Earth. You have to face off with someone you were intimately in love with and swore to be together with till death do you part and go your separate ways. Sometimes it feels like death might be an easier solution. What can be worse though is that period leading up to the divorce. You may suddenly realize that you’ve gone months or even years without really communicating, and that while the trials of the divorce process may force you to talk, it doesn’t mean you have to be civil to one another.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith takes the ultimate situation of spouses that have never really communicated with the marriage of two secret assassins, so secret they’ve never truly told each other what they do. That secrecy about their careers has quickly spread the gap between them as their passion fades to the point that as the movie opens the two are in marriage counceling. This allows the film to set the true story that’s going on here: it’s not flashy assassins playing James Bond with high tech gadgets, although that’s certainly in there. The movie is really about a husband and wife finally discovering who each other are, and finally learning to talk with each other.

As the movie proceeds we get to see the differences between the two assassins. John Smith (Brad Pitt) is more of a rough and tumble type, hitting his marks through instinct, guile, and deception. Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) is more organized, relying more on planning and strategy, allowing her to utilize superior technology. Each individual style is extremely entertaining to watch and really defines each character’s personality, which also explains a lot of the reason the two’s marriage is slowly falling apart. It’s no wonder the two characters can’t agree on a set of dining room curtains when they are clearly so different.

As interesting as it is to watch the two pull missions behind each other’s back, almost get caught, and then go on with life as if nothing extraordinary happens, eventually Mr. and Mrs. Smith wind up with the same target, pitted against each other directly. As in their marriage, the two assassin’s styles cause the husband and wife to get in each other’s way, which ends up in a botched mission for each of them. Each assassin is given 48 hours to clean up their mistake, which means completing the ultimate divorce fantasy and taking out their spouse. This is where the movie really moves into high gear, as the metaphor for the couple splitting up advances. Amidst gunfire and melee the two killers belittle each other’s cooking and family. Think The War of the Roses, only pumped up on caffeine and actually entertaining and you’ve got this part of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Since neither John or Jane are set up as the film’s villain, it’s pretty obvious the two will reconcile their differences at some point. Since this seldom happens to relationships that devolve down to hitting and gunplay, the killer storyline comes back in to play as the 48 hour deadline passes and both assassins suddenly find themselves the targets of their combined agencies. John and Jane rediscover their love for each other as they combine forces in order to survive, leading to some of the movie’s funniest moments as the two begin their relationship over again with a new found honesty. Particularly hilarious is a trip down the highway in a suburban van, revealing the truth about each other’s past while battling assassins sent to kill them.

Only Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie could really pull off these roles with such style and look so good doing it. The characters look gorgeous as they battle things out with perfect comedic timing. Neither actor forces their performance, or tries to go over the top with tears. This is truly an action comedy, regardless of the story its telling, and both Pitt and Jolie tackle it as such. That makes this one of the ultimate fluff movies - there’s not much here of substance, and the movie won’t save any marriages with its take on couples separating, but it’s certainly fun to watch.

If the movie suffers anything it’s that the ending is far too convenient and clean. The film sacrifices everything its spent two hours building up to in the interests of a happy ending, despite Jane’s quip earlier in the film that “if things are happy then it’s not the end”. However, as much as I am loathe to suggest Hollywood churn out another sequel, I wouldn’t mind if this wasn’t the end for Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I certainly could stand to sit through another movie of their antics, as long as it doesn’t follow Pitt’s Oceans franchise by departing so far away from the first movie that we lose what made the film fun in the first place. I’m quite torn about the DVD release of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I really want to like the release, despite a distinct lack of extras (no doubt reserved for some double disc special edition down the road) but some technical glitches have caused me to rank this release lower then I’d like to.

The technical glitches come in the form of the movie stalling in several places, which leads to the film jumping back to an earlier point in the movie. I’ve seen this before on releases and the problem is usually caused by a sudden increase in the bit rate on the disc, however when I monitored the bit rate I didn’t see any change as the picture froze and jumped around. Fast forwarding ten or fifteen seconds usually cleared through the issue, but that’s really not a good solution when you’re trying to enjoy the whole film. I can only hope this was an issue with my specific disc and not indicative of the entire release or else Fox might soon have a recall on their hands.

The movie looks good with a pretty solid transfer (except for the locking up problem) and sounds absolutely fabulous. This is the type of movie worth having a good sound system for, so explosions and gunfire can be heard from all around.

There are only three deleted scenes to be found, which doesn’t quite live up to the “more action and hilarious fun” advertisement on the box. I think you have to have a minimum of six deleted scenes to reach that level. The deleted bits are just extended sequences of scenes already in the movie as well, and none of them were anything worth catching, although giving us a few extra seconds of Vince Vaughn’s comedic sidekick antics is always enjoyable.

There is a short featurette that was developed for the Fox Movie Channel titled “Making a Scene” which goes over one of the funny scenes from the movie that was originally intended to be a car chase. It’s a neat insight to the evolution of this particular scene, but there really isn’t a whole lot of “making of” in the featurette. I have the feeling the whole thing was intended to advertise the movie on Fox’s channel more then to inform the audience how the scene was done.

Finally there are commentary tracks. Boy are there ever commentary tracks. There are three separate commentaries, with insights from director Doug Liman, screenwriter Simon Kinberg, producers, film editors, and more. Basically you get a director/screenwriter track, a producer track, and then a visual effects track. That’s a lot of commentary to tack on to a two hour film, and I wonder if that much running alongside the film might not be partially responsible for the film lock ups I was encountering. I also have to wonder if three commentary tracks is really the best way to present the information, or if Fox might not have been better off putting together a decent sized documentary instead. At the same time, this does kind of make up for all the movies we complain about getting no commentaries on, and these commentaries are fun to listen to, so it’s kind of hypocritical for me to complain about them. I’d just like to have been able to learn about the movie without having to listen to six hours of commentary. Still, commentaries are a lot cheaper to produce, so three commentaries we get.

If I hadn’t had the technical issues I might recommend this DVD a little bit more. If the commentaries had been traded in for a featurette I’d definitely recommend the disc more. Still, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is worth a look. It’s even worth a second look, in case you misjudged it the first time like I did.