If you have any doubts about Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane’s reboot of 2005 blockbuster Mr. & Mrs. Smith, let me put your mind at ease.
Like many, when hearing the news that Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) would be getting the remake treatment, I was not moved by a sense of anticipation. I had felt like the remake, revival, reboot specials that have beseeched iconic stories like its kind had exhausted the limits of the original work and fell on tired and, quite frankly, bored audiences. However, if you have any doubt about Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane’s spin on this 2005 blockbuster, let me put your mind at ease.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the best version of what a reboot can be. It takes the concept of a beloved story and makes it completely its own. The 2005 film focused on a painfully attractive, suave couple struggling to dominate one another as the two top spies in the world after the same target all while masquerading as a mundane, married couple. The 2023 series, on the other hand, dives a lot deeper by focusing its energy less on the action and more on the titular couple.
The series opens up on a former marine (Donald Glover) and CIA hopeful (Maya Erskine) being screened for a top secretive and highly sensitive spy program. When selected, they are sent into an unrealistically gorgeous New York City brownstone where they have an opportunity to earn an inordinate amount of money and travel the world. The small catch? They become legally married to one another and henceforth are known as John and Jane Smith.
The show follows John and Jane as they are sent on high-risk missions all while trying to navigate this new relationship. John is laidback and easy going whereas Jane is hard-headed and wants to do things her way. While John wants to get to know his partner, Jane wants to focus on the missions at hand. As the show progresses, we get to see John and Jane’s relationship evolve and the chaos that ensues from their personal and professional lives messily intertwining.
What makes this series so successful is that, unlike the original film, it asks questions and points out the absurdities of situations that audience members watching at home are sure to notice as well. While the original film never answers the question of how these two world-class spies have no idea they are married to another world-class spy, the series indulges in the awkwardness of John and Jane’s pairing.
Their relationship does not come easy, nor does their professional partnership. They are a clunky match and they don’t have a magically firm grasp on how to work with one another after randomly being paired together for, theoretically, the rest of their lives. Neither in their missions nor their personal lives do they carry the same ease and swagger of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. To put it simply, they are not suave spies.
However, this is the realness that makes the show so great. It finds humor in their mistakes and highlights the insanity of the expectation that for some reason they would get everything right directly off the bat. The show’s self-consciousness about itself makes it so fun to watch. It feels like you’re watching a wild show with the funniest person you know, but in reality, John and Jane are the ones commentating on the outrageousness and humor of each situation they are thrown into.
This isn’t to say they never find their rhythm. While they get off to a bumpy start, John and Jane ultimately do live the opulent lives of world-class spies. Traveling around the world completing missions, adorned in the latest Prada sunglasses or winter coat while driving a Maserati. The show leans into the sexy spy aspects you’d want it to, but all the while finding ways to ground this lavish life of theirs.
As the eight episodes progress, Jane and John develop systems and patterns to make their missions go much smoother, but the overwhelming stress and turmoil this career brings begins to spill over into their personal relationship.
Sure, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is laugh out loud funny. Donald Glover is at his comedic height and Maya Erskine is given a chance to shine after being criminally overlooked for her work in the past. However, the show successfully goes deeper with its revival as it aims to tell the story of John and Jane’s relationship, at times turning the action into background noise to get to the emotional core of this married couple.
John and Jane are lonely people. They find solace in one another and the freedom to be themselves in a way they never have before. The situation they are in requires utter transparency, the kind neither of them can run or shy away from. They go from strangers to legal spouses in a matter of minutes with life or death stakes on the line. They have to completely let their walls down, but with real love developing between them, their humanness gets in their way.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is both clever and refreshing. This remake uses the original material to launch this satellite story that lightly references the film while having an identity of its own. It works to be different and modernize itself rather than forcing modern slang and references at the audience in a lazy attempt to make itself feel current. Glover and Erskine will have you entranced from their very first scenes and their fiery chemistry keeps you rooting for their union the entire run of the series.
While the show may pull you in with the action or grandeur (including some absolutely killer guest stars) that accessorizes the story, the deep exploration of two people navigating a relationship under high-pressure circumstances is what will get you to stay.
Season 1 of Mr. & Mrs. Smith will be released globally on Prime Video on February 2, 2024.