Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the web series, is a remake, a reboot, or a reimagining of the 2005 Doug Liman film of the same name. It does earn all of those tags because, apart from the names, there’s nothing all that similar between the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt movie and the Donald Glover-Maya Erskine Prime Video web series. But does that make the latter better than the former? Well, let’s compare them based on the criteria I’ve made up just for this article and see which one fares better. By the way, if you are of the opinion that a show shouldn’t be compared with a movie, or vice versa, even though it begs comparison because the show is a remake of the movie, then you’re in the wrong place, my friend. Okay, now let the analysis begin.
In Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the movie, John and Jane Smith were from rivaling companies. Initially, both of them didn’t even know that their better half was a spy. They went on missions and lived a regular life, and their marriage hit a dead end because of their missions and the mundanity of their lifestyle. Since their marriage was detrimental to the rivaling companies, they sent them after Benjamin “The Tank” Danz in the hopes that they’d either kill each other or the companies would put them in a corner and then kill them off. That obviously backfired, and John and Jane banded together, destroyed everyone that came after them, and presumably resumed their “normal” lifestyle. In the web series, John and Jane worked for an institution that recruited heterosexual (or maybe some of them were bisexual) and jobless people with a history of government-sanctioned violence and made them live like couples. Every couple had the same name, i.e., John and Jane Smith. They were categorized in terms of the risk factor they were ready to handle. They had the luxury of failing three missions. After that, they’d be killed by other John and Jane Smiths. The versions of the characters we follow fell in love because of the job. They fell apart because of the job. Since they failed three missions, they were forced to kill each other by another version of John and Jane Smith, but that ordeal ended up reforging their bond.
One of the most memorable aspects of the Mr. & Mrs. Smith movie was the therapy session bit. Simon Kinberg and Doug Liman did use the rule of three (the setup, the reminder, and the payoff) to show that the titular couple was going to therapy to save their marriage. Then, they went alone because they couldn’t stand each other during the therapy sessions. Then they were going together again because they had solved their issues and started a new chapter of their marriage. And the rest of the narrative played out between all these therapy sessions. The web series dedicated an entire episode to the couples therapy bit from the movie, where they pretended to be software engineers, and interspersed it with instances that led to the issues in their relationship. When they learned that the therapist was recording all of their conversations, they burned down her house. In my opinion, if this gimmick was underwritten and underutilized in the film, then it was overwritten and overdone in the web series. I did want more from the couples therapy sessions in the movie, and I guess the show tried to do that. However, it became way too annoying to learn something from it or derive any kind of enjoyment from it.
The action in the Doug Liman film can give all the recently released mega-budget blockbusters a run for their money. I distinctly remember the shootout in the house, as it was the grittiest thing I had watched back then. The web series explicitly paid homage to that moment, with Donald Glover faking an injury, much like Brad Pitt did in the movie, only for Maya Erskine and Angelina Jolie, respectively, to figure out the lie. But the difference in quality was astronomical. The staging, the blocking, the comedy, the explosions, the stunt work, the impact—everything was on point in the movie. Meanwhile, the web series barely tried to do anything memorable in terms of chases, fights, and shootouts. They were longer and more detailed. But I don’t think “longer” always translates to “better.” Also, Glover and Erskine aren’t action stars. I’ll say that the writers, directors, and choreographers did factor those things into the action sequences in order to disguise the actors’ shortcomings. And yet, it was evident that those two weren’t comfortable with doing anything synonymous with the word “action.” What Jolie and Pitt did in the movie speaks for itself, even after all these years. Their commitment was palpable, and they looked so goddamn cool while doing some of the most logic-defying stuff. In the era of too much realism, I think we needed more of that in the web series.
The Romantic Drama
This was the only thing from the movie that the web series could have improved on because there wasn’t any real drama in the Mr. & Mrs. Smith movie. The romance and the drama heavily relied on the charisma of Jolie and Pitt and their real-life chemistry, and it worked for the most part. But by the time the third act rolled in, it got stale. The web series definitely put more focus on fleshing out the romance and drama between the characters played by Glover and Erskine. They were more three-dimensional. They had history. Their lies worked on multiple planes. There was more room for callbacks. However, all of it overstayed its welcome. I am guessing that the writers had to put enough substance into each episode to justify its one-hour running time. That was why, after a certain point, it seemed like they were dragging their feet to the finishing line. The bickering got annoying, but not in an entertaining and engaging way. The lack of chemistry became apparent as the writers tried too hard to play into the awkwardness of the characters and the actors. Hence, by the end, I wanted John and Jane to go their separate ways and spare me the nonsense, which I am guessing is the last thing that a romantic drama should be aiming for.
The movie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, was stuffed with hilarious moments, especially after the titular couple started clashing with each other on the battlefield. Kinberg and Liman incorporated Jolie’s charm and Pitt’s silliness into the film, thereby giving the kind of levity that was needed to power the action, the drama, and the romance. The interactions with their assets and their colleagues were pretty fun. All in all, I laughed quite a few times over the course of 2 hours. I don’t think I even smirked while watching the Prime Video web series. And it was surprising because the writers, the directors, and the actors have done various kinds of comedy. Existential humor, dry humor, slapstick—you name it, and they have done it. Yet, they exhibited none of that finesse over the course of eight very long hours. I know that comedy is subjective, and maybe whatever kind of comedy has been exhibited in the web series has an audience, but it certainly wasn’t for me.
Is The Prime Video Web Series Better Than The Doug Liman Movie?
Mr. & Mrs. Smith isn’t a masterpiece. So, it’s not like the web series has “ruined” its legacy or anything. But if you tell me that I have to choose between a 2-hour-long movie that is packed to the brim with action, comedy, and romance and an 8-hour-long web series that is never funny, has some bland action, and has no fire in its romance, I think the answer is obvious. Of course, I am going to choose Doug Liman’s movie over Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane’s web series. At the very least, the movie has a handful of memorable moments that will always stand the test of time, no matter how much action cinema evolves. Meanwhile, I will remember the show as something that looked good on paper and had some level of craft on display, but was mostly annoying. Does that mean the movie is better than the web series? Personally speaking, yes.
Is it pointless to compare them to the 1941 Hitchcock film or the 1996 TV series?
In the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock film titled Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the titular married couple learned that they weren’t actually married because of some technicality. To make things worse, David Smith didn’t propose to Ann Smith so that they could get remarried. That led to all kinds of juvenile and fun shenanigans. There wasn’t any spywork involved. There was a lot of lying and a lot of jealousy on display. That said, it’s quite pointless to compare the 2005 film and the 2024 web series with this oldie. As for the 1996 TV series, starring Scott Bakula and Maria Bello, also titled Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I didn’t know it existed until I started writing this article because it has hardly been mentioned anywhere. However, it has more in common with the 2024 web series, especially in terms of the storytelling and tone, than the 2005 film. Unfortunately, it aired only nine of its episodes, and the remaining four didn’t see the light of everyone’s television sets. All the episodes are apparently available on a YouTube channel called Vintage TV and Collectables. So, by all means, go ahead and check it out.