GET SMART (director: Peter Segal; screenwriters: Tom J. Astle/Matt Ember/based on characters by: Mel Brooks, Buck Henry; cinematographer: Dean Semler; editor: Richard Pearson; music: Trevor Rabin; cast: Steve Carell (Maxwell Smart), Anne Hathaway (Agent 99), Dwayne Johnson (Agent 23), Alan Arkin (The Chief), Terrence Stamp (Siegfried), James Caan (The President), Terry Crews (Agent 91), Ken Davatian (Shtarker), Dalip Singh (Dalip), Bill Murray (Agent 13), Patrick Warburton (Hymie), David Koechner (Larabee), Bruce (Masi Oka), Nate Torrence (Lloyd), David S. Lee (Ladislas Krstic), Lindsay Hollister (Fat Dancer); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Andrew Lazar/Charles Roven/Alex Gartner/Michael Ewing; Warner Brothers; 2008)
“The amiable deadpan comic Steve Carell was a good choice to take the part of the inept agent that stand-up comedian Don Adams played.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
If you liked the comedy spy TV series that began in 1965 and ended in 1970 (which I thought was just a so-so pop-culture trendy show that in its silly way made its mark as it spoofed the popular James Bond), chances are that you won’t be disappointed by this updated reboot that offers some chuckles as it maintains the same low-bar standards as the TV series to keep it watchable as passable entertainment. The amiable deadpan comic Steve Carell was a good choice to take the part of the inept agent that stand-up comedian Don Adams played, and is the best reason for liking the film as he successfully makes Smart his own character rather than aping Adams. The show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry as a spy-spoof of the Cold War era with broad social jokes, silly catchphrases (like “Sorry about that, Chief”), a shoe-phone, a Cone of Silence and mucho slapstick, overall recaptures the same lighthearted fun. Director Peter Segal (“The Longest Yard”/”Tommy Boy”/”Anger Management”) removes much of the TV show’s violence and instead provides more of an action story, and the writing team of Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember come up with an original story that brings to the table a lot of smart-ass one-liners that give it a needed modern-day flavoring.
In Washington, D.C., veteran CONTROL desk-bound analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), a nerdy socially awkward egghead (not an idiot like on TV) with ambitions to be an agent, working for the covert spy agency that supposedly ceased to exist with the fall of communism, is going off on his first mission as a field agent against an evil terrorist outfit called KAOS. The no-nonsense Chief (Alan Arkin) only promotes his star analyst, who is too valuable in his current position to have been promoted before, because all the identities of CONTROL’S agents have been compromised after KAOS invaded CONTROL headquarters. The only agent whose cover was not blown is the leggy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who has just returned to duty with a surgically cosmetic makeover for a face and has gone from blonde to a brunette. Max and 99 are teamed and secretly drop into Russia, via a dangerous parachute jump, on a mission to discover why KAOS mastermind agent, the Teutonic maniacally evil Siegfried (Terence Stamp), is stockpiling radioactive materials in a bakery. It will lead to Siegfried planning to blow up with hijacked Chechnya nukes the U. S. president at a Los Angeles concert while they are playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the only one standing in the way is Smart, who is imprisoned by CONTROL when suspected of being a double-agent.
The doomsday spoof shuttles between being a bad action and a mostly lame one joke comedy film. But, that being said, it still has enough laughs manufactured by the physical comedy of the bumbling Smart to be a surprisingly pleasing film, as the talented Carell has a knack for being funny whenever he loses his dignity and is almost credible as a hero figure as he exploits his character’s inexperience and naivety into an acceptable shtick. It should be pleasing to both the TV fans of the show and, maybe, also to a healthy portion of the newcomers. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the crazed staple-gun user as a tool for revenge, macho man and smoothy ladies man superstar Agent 23. The lab geeks Bruce (Masi Oka) and Lloyd (Nate Torrence) offer more comic relief in providing techie devices for Smart, while pro wrestler giant Dalip Singh plays Siegfried’s bodyguard and all around henchman by using his brutish physical presence to great benefit, and James Caan is a riot as the president–offering a wickedly cruel parody of George W. Bush as the idiot president. Bill Murray has a cameo as the demoted Agent 13, stuck with a surveillance assignment from inside a tree trunk.
It’s a goofy summertime treat, that is as refreshingly daffy as Smart referring to himself at one point, while in a jam, as Nudnik Shpilkes.
REVIEWED ON 6/19/2008 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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