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A shotgun marriage: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” again

From Francesca Sloane and Donald Glover comes a refreshing and reimagined take on the 2005 classic

<p>While the marriage between Pitt’s John and Jolie’s Jane was formed without knowledge of – and subsequently torn apart by – espionage, that of Donald Glover and Maya Erskine is concocted as a cover for it, as they embark on their mission and marriage in tandem.&nbsp;</p>

While the marriage between Pitt’s John and Jolie’s Jane was formed without knowledge of – and subsequently torn apart by – espionage, that of Donald Glover and Maya Erskine is concocted as a cover for it, as they embark on their mission and marriage in tandem. 

The latest addition to a series of remakes and repurposes has arrived with “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” The Amazon Prime Video series is loosely based on the 2005 film of the same title starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but what it lacks in pop culture notoriety it makes up for in a strong premise and stronger cast. 

The premise is loosely based on that of the Doug Liman original, but with some notable differences. While the marriage between Pitt’s John and Jolie’s Jane was formed without knowledge of — and subsequently torn apart by — espionage, that of Donald Glover and Maya Erskine is concocted as a cover for espionage, as the pair embarks on their mission and marriage in tandem.  

This setup allows for plenty of play with the parallels between amorous and agent partnerships. The relationship between John and Jane is the heart and soul of the show, crafted and cemented by the chemistry between Glover and Erskine. Obviously, the sparks between them in no way come close to those that were flying between Pitt and Jolie in 2005 — but they do not need to.  

It would be a tall task to replicate the original. While the film was certainly not a Best Picture contender, it was a clever and convivial action-comedy centered on beautiful people who were, coincidentally, in the midst of conducting one of Hollywood’s most notable and notorious affairs. 

But “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” doesn’t try to do that. Indeed, Erskine positions her and Glover’s interpretations of John and Jane as flawed and futile human beings, polar opposites to those of Brangelina. Instead, the show gives viewers a refreshingly real and — besides the assassinations, obviously — relatable depiction of a budding romance, with episodes titled after corresponding relationship roadmarks such as “First Date” and “Do You Want Kids?” 

The script — though not without its dragging segments — is sharp and executed well by its stars. Glover, of “Community” and “Atlanta,” adopts subtler airs than his usual razor-sharp comedy, and Erskine, known for “PEN15” and “Man Seeking Woman,” compliments him nicely. “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” is skilled at giving its stars room to do what they’re good at — and, speaking of stars, there are quite a few. 

The series is riddled with cameos, from Sarah Paulson to Paul Dano to Parker Posey. Alexander Skarsgård, too, appears in the pilot just long enough for viewers to think, “Wait, Alexander Skarsgård is in this?” before promptly being shot in the face. Beyond audience enjoyment, this casting also serves as a callback to the original film, which features small performances from the likes of Michelle Monaghan and Kerry Washington. 

Indeed, lovers of the 2005 film will find nods to the Brangelina of it all throughout the new series, from blown up houses to secret stashes of spy supplies. In a callback to the original’s iconic couples therapy sequences, Episode 6 finds John and Jane in a similar situation, only with a marriage counselor on screen instead of off camera. Both sequences are comical, charmingly awkward and clever avenues for both character and couple development. 

Ultimately, the perils and pitfalls to which the cloak-and-dagger couples are subject run quite parallel. “What do you think happens if we fail?” Jane asks. “Our marriage?” John replies. “Our mission,” she corrects him. This question, ultimately, is what both versions of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” seek to ask and answer, though they work from two opposite directions to do so — quite like a couple of spies.  

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