The central comic concept of the new action thriller Mr. and Mrs. Smith -- and yes, it's a concept movie and a comedy -- is that no matter how beautiful you are and no matter how successful your career, once you get married, your life will turn into an unmitigated connubial horror.
So what if John Smith (Brad Pitt) owns an eponymous engineering firm, and so what if Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) runs a technology firm? And so what if, unbeknownst to the other, each is a hired assassin for a rival hired-assassin firm? Eventually you'll end up in marriage counseling, unable even to comprehend, let alone answer, a ridiculous question like, "How often do you have sex?"
Jane works for an all-girl murder-for-hire organization, a sort of Charlie's Hell's Angels, run by a voice on the cell phone they call "Father," and the movie is often very amusing, as when John asks the shrink, "What do you call that huge place that keeps filling up with the things we don't say to each other?" and the shrink answers, "Marriage."
Simon Kinberg's script gets off a fair number of these Everybody Loves Raymond-style one-liners, and they're funny apart from the ironic setup that I guess is supposed to make them even funnier. But the movie needs a lot more of this to work as the classically styled screwball comedy it apparently wants to be.
Director Doug Liman revisits familiar territories in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He made The Bourne Identity, which this movie broadly resembles with its action, and Swingers, which its humor loosely recalls, especially because Liman cast his Swingers star, Vince Vaughn, as John's loquacious assassin buddy. Vaughn -- whose character lives with his mother, who's fully aware of his profession -- probably wrote much of his own twitchy dialogue, and the leads don't really help him much. Pitt is a better ensemble player or character actor than he is a leading man, and Jolie's plump lips and furious eyes undermine her timing. Both also tend to mumble now and then.
When John and Jane discover each other's secret identities, it leads them to have to try to kill each other, which leads to a twist involving a guy (Adam Brody) each was earlier assigned to kill. The climax takes place at night in a darkened Home Depot-like store, and just before charging out to do two-on-myriad battle against an army of assassins, John and Jane talk about running away to La Paz -- as in Bolivia, where Butch and Sundance met their reward. "Happy endings are just stories that haven't finished yet," Jane tells John during their preposterous run for their lives. Nice line. But of course, the freeze frame is way out of style, and in 21st-century Hollywood, you don't invest this much in a movie to see the stars end up a pair of bloody stumps.