“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” made more than $51 million on its opening weekend, and Brad Pitt didn’t even need to treat a talk show host’s couch like a trampoline while maniacally professing his love for Angelina Jolie in order to coax that currency out of movie-goers’ pockets.
Can you imagine what Tom Cruise’s “War of the Worlds” and Katie Holmes’ “Batman Begins” will rake in after these two love bunnies got engaged at the Eiffel Tower? If they showed the two movies as a double feature, it might almost amass enough at the box office to buy out Oprah.
But this is probably a good time to eschew traditional Hollywood cynicism and wish these two smooch muffins our most sincere congratulations. It isn’t often the No. 1 movie star in the world goes ga-ga in public and invites ridicule, but then has the chops to tell the world to sit on it and rotate while he whisks his lady to Paris and proposes.
Tom and Katie met reporters after he popped the question early Friday morning, which is not the typical scenario. Usually when stars get engaged, they do so in CIA-like secrecy. They hire sharpshooters to keep paparazzi in helicopters away from the airspace over their compound. Or they register under assumed names at an undisclosed luxury hotel while wearing disguises, then have their publicists issue a release that includes the sentence, “They hope you will respect their privacy.”
Tom and Katie have taken a different tack. They’re embracing in just about every public venue where an embrace is physically possible. If for some reason Tom needed an MRI, Katie surely would be squeezed into the horizontal tube with him. They’ve exchanged more kisses for public consumption than Richard Dawson used to on “Family Feud.”
Naturally, this makes it more difficult to rebuke allegations that this tsunami of romance that has drenched these two in recent weeks is a ploy to snag the covers of every magazine save for “Cooking Light.” And frankly, the naysayers have ammunition.
If you’ve been to the newsstand lately, Tom and Katie have elbowed out every other celebrity face. Of course, when you consider that this means fewer images of Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, then Tom and Katie are truly a match made in heaven.
Tom gave Katie a ring that was described in reports as “massive.” She was flashing it on Friday to reporters, although she did not comment on it. In fact, she didn’t comment about anything. She and Tom sat there, billing and cooing, blushing and giggling. In other words, if you want to hear Katie speak, you’ll have to buy a ticket to “Batman Begins.”
I’m trying to give these two kids the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that their union is genuine and not staged to promote their movies. After all, “War of the Worlds,” directed by Steven Spielberg, probably needs little in the way of a nudge at the box office. It would be the event of the summer even without a lovesick matinee idol in the lead. The audience for “Batman Begins” is also reliable; comic book geeks have been twitching in their flood pants since it was announced. So these films don’t really need the added benefit of two toothy actors sucking face for every shutterbug they can attract.
Still, Tom and Katie did get engaged while in Europe to promote their films. If they wanted to avoid chatter from nattering nabobs of negativity that this kissy fest was fabricated, they could have waited until both pictures came out on DVD in a few months. Then again, Tom said the couple has not set a wedding date — “We haven’t discussed that — one step at a time” — so maybe that announcement will coincide with the video releases. The two-disk special editions could each contain a making-of featurette on the planning of the wedding.
The Eiffel Tower was a nice touch, but it could go either way. The romantic in me wants to believe Tom selected that particular landmark because it is the most famous symbol in the world’s No. 1 city for lovers. He could have chosen the Louvre, but I don’t think they allow flashbulbs in there. He could have picked Notre Dame, but then you have the image of two beautiful humans tempered by that of the hunchback. And I doubt very much if he considered the Moulin Rouge, for obvious reasons.
While they met reporters Friday, Tom reportedly leaned over to Katie and whispered, “Are you O.K.?” She didn’t reply, perhaps because the answer is obvious to everyone. She’s engaged to a superstar actor. She has an iceberg on her finger. She has a blockbuster movie out in theaters. She’s gallivanting around Europe in luxury. In retrospect, it was a silly question, but Tom’s been a silly boy lately.
The two then left for a promotional event in Marseilles. It will probably involve more posing for photos, more flashing of the ring, more questions about their relationship and more denials about this being a charade.
I hope it’s not fake. I pray that Tom and Katie find happiness. In fact, I wish them the same everlasting love that Brad and Angelina found. After all, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” could gross more than $100 million worldwide after this weekend.
Now that’s a marriage with legs.
Michael Ventre lives in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.