Review: Get Smart

June 21, 2008 at 2:05 am 2 comments

I was one of the few kids on my block that watched Nick-at-Nite during the early and mid-90’s.  I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and of course Get Smart were among my favorites.  I honestly don’t remember too much of the Don Adams original spy spoof (I do remember Maxwell Smart marrying Agent 99), but iconic props like the shoe phone, cone of silence, and elevator/phone booth really stick out.  What really made the series great was the humor; granted it isn’t the first to spoof the spy genre (I think Our Man Flint, which was a movie spoof of the James Bond films, came out earlier).

Director Peter Segal gives us this updated version of the classic television show starring funnyman Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and others.  I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie, but I will say that I went in with some high expectations.  The trailers were funny, I like Steve Carell, and I loved the television show.  By the time the last of the end credits rolled, I can say that it was everything I expected it to be.

The movie basically follows Maxwell Smart, a data analyst for the covert government agency known only as CONTROL, which monitors the activities of KAOS, a criminal organization bent on obtaining nuclear weapons or the material to make them.  Smart is one of the best analysts CONTROL has, but he has aspirations of becoming a field agent, like Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson).  Without giving away too much, Smart’s boss ‘Chief’ (Alan Arkin) is forced to promote Smart and pair him with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) so they can track agents of KAOS and stop them from obtaining ‘the bomb.’

Steve Carell is fine as Maxwell Smart, getting many of the mannerisms that Don Adams had while adding a few of his own.  This both works for and against him, as an outright mimicry of Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart would have been insulting, but there are times when Carell tries to do some ‘original’ things that just make him sound like a version of ‘Andy’ from The 40-Year-Old-Virgin or ‘Michael’ from The Office.  Overall, I didn’t mind Carell at all and I think he turns in a good comedic performance.

Anne Hathaway holds her own well against Steve Carell.  While not the comedian like Carell is, she plays her role of the straight-faced workaholic field agent fine in contrast to Carell’s bumbling-but-well-meaning Maxwell Smart.  She also shows off more physical skills with lots of punching, kicking, and throwing/being thrown throughout the movie.

Alan Arkin also deserves notice for playing his relatively small role with just enough weight.  His comedic moments are nice, and watching him you can tell that he is probably taking his role a little more seriously than the others; meaning, he isn’t trying to make a funny role serious, he’s just trying a little harder to play his character than the other supporting cast.

Which brings me to the rest of the large cast.  Dwayne Johnson is doing his best, but he’s still not an actor.  His line delivery feels a little off, and his physical prowess is wasted here.  I kind of wanted to see him throw a few guys around.  Terence Stamp turns in one of the most by-the-book performances I’ve seen in some time.  On the Filmspotting podcast, the two reviewers say that they feel like Stamp is ‘phoning it in’ with regards to his acting.  I agree.  This was basically another paycheck for the acclaimed actor.  I haven’t seen such a hammy and dead performance of a villain since I saw Edward Norton in the recent The Italian Job remake.  Masi Oka and Nate Torrence, who are in charge of what amounts to CONTROL’s version of Q Branch from the Bond films, have a funny scene or two, but for the most part, they don’t really do anything.

What I also didn’t like was the believability of the characters as a whole.  I know, I know, this isn’t a serious action movie, but I just didn’t buy some of it.  For example, Maxwell Smart has been training and applying for a field agent position for years and hasn’t gotten it.  He’s never seen real combat, never been in any real danger, but here he is in several scenes shooting people, and basically doing some James Bond stuff only without the smoothness of the real 007.  It sort of took me out of the movie for some parts.

Toward the end, the movie picks up a bit in the action department, with a nice freeway chase and then a battle inside, and on top of, a moving SUV tethered to a propeller-powerd airplane.  I really enjoyed that scene and was as well shot and choreographed as any higher-quality action scene.

In the end, Get Smart is a nice little movie that somehow wedges itself between ‘summer blockbuster’ and ‘summer comedy’.  The two leads play their roles nicely and have some really great chemistry.  There are enough funny scenes to keep the audience laughing (the ‘cone of silence’ scene is hilarious) and just enough action so that the audience doesn’t get bored.  However, it felt slightly too long, clocking in at around 1 hour and 50 minutes.  I wished they could have trimmed a bit in the middle and gone for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The final movie ‘missed it by that much’, but it’s not like it gets boring or anything.  If you need some lighter fare separate from this summer’s crop of comic book action spectaculars, Get Smart isn’t a bad choice.


By the way, look for an…interesting cameo from Bill Murray.  My friend that I saw this movie with said that it was ‘ridiculous’, but in a good way.  Also, watch for a slight nod to the original series in the form of a character they mention, then introduce near the end.  Die-hard fans of the series will recognize this person, at least by the name.

(images from Yahoo!)


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. writetools  |  June 21, 2008 at 2:45 am

    I, like you, watched the original series reruns as a kid, and I am excited to… well rent it 🙂 I saw and interview with Steve Carell and it was an eerie recast for Maxwell Smart. Thanks for your honest review…

  • 2. patrick  |  July 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Get Smart looks pretty good over all though it seems like Steve Carell is veering toward an excess of slapstick humor


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