"Get Smart" misses by a mile
New Maxwell Smart movie "Get Smart" just doesn't cut it, according to a Seattle Times review of the new film starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.
Seattle Times staff reporter
"Get Smart," with Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin. Directed by Peter Segal from a screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. 111 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language. Several theaters.
Movie Trailer | "Get Smart"
Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by this much," but I'm holding my hands really far apart. Despite what seemed (in the trailers, at least) like inspired casting of Steve Carell, the perpetrators of "Get Smart" almost entirely miss what made the Cold War TV spy comedy funny. It's a good thing Don Adams isn't around to see this overblown, overlong Bay of Pigs. Barbara Feldon, not so lucky.
It's somehow an update and an origin story: The spy agency CONTROL ostensibly has been mothballed for a couple of decades, and Max's iconic car, shoe phone and suit are museum displays. Yet Max (Carell) is a nerdy analyst at the modern-day CONTROL who desperately wants to be a field agent like the popular Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). After an attack at headquarters leaves most of the agents compromised, the Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to promote Max, partner him with the beautiful Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and send them to Russia, where rival agency KAOS is hatching a plan that involves yellowcake uranium in a factory that makes yellow cake.
The affair (to use a "Man From U.N.C.L.E." term) isn't quite as misbegotten as "The Avengers" or "I Spy" movies, but it's this close (now I'm using a thumb and forefinger).
Remember: Adams' Max was a complete buffoon and walking disaster area who thought he was the best secret agent in the world. (But in the TV show's nonsense universe, he was still CONTROL's best man.) Feldon's 99 appeared quietly adoring while actually being the competent one. And the Chief (Edward Platt) was perpetually exasperated and injured by Max's idiocy — making "Sorry about that, Chief" funnier when Max said it every episode. A good deal of the show's gloriously silly humor came from driving jokes so far into the ground that they'd drink Daniel Plainview's milkshake, resulting in such other catchphrases as "... and loving it" and "Would you believe... "
Note the improvements inflicted by the brain trust of director Peter Segal ("Nutty Professor II: The Klumps") and screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember ("Failure to Launch"): Max is an insecure former fatty who has flashbacks to his blimp days. Seriously. Carell, avoiding an Adams imitation, is just a variation of his Michael Scott boob on "The Office." Agent 99 dislikes and constantly snipes at him, and she's a martial-arts dynamo. To account for the age difference between Carell and Hathaway, 99 explains she had cosmetic surgery to change her identity and shave off a few years. The Chief? A violent rageoholic. And the beloved catchphrases are touched on like perfunctory Olympic moves — even the Cone of Silence, whose mere mention should elicit laughter.
So fans will feel more sold out than Aldrich Ames' victims (even 1980's "The Nude Bomb" was better), while civilians just looking for laughs will find it another case of the funniest bits appearing in the trailer. Those few moments make you wish Carell had competent stewards, because even his failed attempt to throw a phone receiver at captors is more hilarious than the entire third-act race/chace/fight involving a bomb at a Los Angeles symphony.
As Siegfried, the mastermind behind the bomb, Terence Stamp is, ah, present. And James Caan plays a redneck president who can't pronounce "nuclear." This is what their careers have come to.
Series creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry are credited as consultants on the movie. That must be code for "check-cashers."
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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