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TV review: 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' show misses point of movie

Donald Glover and Maya Erskine are the new "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Photo courtesy of Prime Video
Donald Glover and Maya Erskine are the new "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Photo courtesy of Prime Video

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Mr. and Mrs. Smith, on Prime Video on Friday, unfortunately lacks the innovative spirit of Atlanta, from the same creators. It also completely misses the point of the 2005 movie on which the show is based.

In the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) were undercover assassins. Their covers were so convincing and boring, neither knew the other was an assassin until they were hired to kill each other.

On the show, John (Donald Glover) and Jane (Maya Erskine) submit to a mysterious job interview. A computer asks them basic questions like their height, if they would relocate and how much money they have in the bank.

Questions shift to more personality inquiries, presumably assessing the compatibility of applicants. It takes a really long time and is no more interesting than submitting to an actual job interview.

John and Jane meet when they are assigned to live together as a married couple and accept missions for this cryptic agency. This already removes the central conflict of the source material.

Maya Erskine is Mrs. Smith. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
Maya Erskine is Mrs. Smith. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Cinema's Mr. and Mrs. Smith's (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) dilemma threatened their lives, let alone their marriage. If they're working for the same agency, there's no conflict.

It's just a standard spy drama about strangers working together for a mission. It seems like hiring strangers is not a very efficient way to execute this plan, either. Most agencies would prep their agents before the mission.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) get to know each other before their mission. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) get to know each other before their mission. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

The first episode is a very slow depiction of Jane and John getting to know each other while they watch their first target. The show presumes interest in its characters before they've earned it.

Their banter is so mundane that no one would get a second date with this material. They discuss which chores they prefer to do, sleeping and cleaning habits, etc.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) retrieve an asset, Photo courtesy of Prime Video
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) retrieve an asset, Photo courtesy of Prime Video

Watching expert agents like James Bond or Sydney Bristow from Alias is fun. Watching newbies figure it out on the job is less so.

The premiere episode also plays up a "will they or won't they" scenario? Jane wants to keep their "marriage" professional, but it's pretty naive to think she can play married with no intimacy. What missions do they think they'll do as a platonic couple?

The mission brings Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) closer. Photo courtesy of Prime Video
The mission brings Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Donald Glover and Maya Erskine) closer. Photo courtesy of Prime Video

But the question that supersedes will they or won't they is: Why should we care? Regardless, the trailer confirms that question doesn't drag out for long, and indeed the second episode begins exploring their physical relationship.

By Episode 3, John and Jane are bickering like a couple tired of each other's habits.

There's no arc to this relationship. It's either so slow the characters bore, or too quick to feel natural.

Missions force them to demean themselves for the job, which could be an interesting take on spy work. Ultimately, the premise is too flawed to take such genre-defying swings.

The movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith was about how action heroes can't really have healthy marriages (even more so than True Lies suggested). The streaming series is about relationships based on intense experiences, which was a joke in Speed but doesn't work as an episode, let alone a series.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.