Get Smart

starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway and Alan Arkin
written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember & directed by Peter Segal
Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language.

When a massive security leak compromises the identity of almost every agent in US super-spy organization CONTROL, the Chief (Arkin) is forced to promote his top analyst, Maxwell Smart (Carell). Smart, together with Agent 99 (Hathaway), encounters a series of zany misadventures as he criss-crosses the globe to stop a nuclear plot perpetrated by CONTROL’s evil rival, KAOS.

I’ve been a fan of Get Smart reruns for many years, so you might say I was among those who approached this modern-day reimagining with trepidation, and with certain expectations. The casting of Steve Carell in the title role (not to mention Alan Arkin) seemed inspired, to say the least. Still, how well would the filmmakers be able to translate the Cold War-era espionage humor into a more modern climate.

The answer, unfortunately, is not well. Not well at all. This script is a complete disaster which doesn’t function on any level. Foreshadowing, plot development and expository dialogue are the clumsiest I’ve seen in some time. Borrowing the germ of its story and most of its best ideas from much funnier spy spoofs like Johnny English was not the route to take. And, yes, a movie starring Mr. Bean had more laughs than this. Unsurprisingly, Get Smart is at its best when it returns to its roots, with the cone of silence, the shoe phone, Max’s ubiquitous catchphrases, etc. Homage, however, is kept to a minimum. The humor is forced, unoriginal and disconnected from the action, the dialogue is frequently painful and there are more than a handful of already-dated political cheap-shots. Above all, the material is devoid of subtlety, which, I guess, is probably the greatest crime a satirical comedy can commit.

Frankly, I was appalled to find myself embarassed for the plight of the fine actors on the screen. Carell and Arkin do great work, and Hathaway (though not quite Barbara Feldon) was very good as 99. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is as hilarious as always when lampooning his own persona, and it was nice to see small roles filled by the likes of Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura from TV’s “Heroes”). Cameo appearances by Bill Murray and Patrick Warburton (who doesn’t often show up in live-action fare) were also welcome. That this movie is even tolerable is almost entirely thanks to the inherent humor of performers like Arkin and Carell.

Sadly, the material couldn’t even begin to live up to the talent enlisted in support of it. Little wonder when one notices that the director’s last decade has been spent on Adam Sandler movies and The Nutty Professor II. It’s not like I never laughed, but I cringed three times for every chuckle. At first it seemed like they might just be trying too hard, but eventually it became apparent that the writers just weren’t trying at all. Anyone could have written this script, and it feels like a slapdash rough draft meant to give shape to further doctoring efforts.

It looks like the first season of the original television show is finally getting a DVD release soon (perhaps the only positive benefit of the big-screen treatment). I plan on picking up a copy, and I recommend that you save any money you might otherwise have spent going to the theater this week and put it towards that. The DVDs are due out in early August, and I plan to spend all of the time from now until then putting
this adaptation well out of my mind.

~ by Jared on June 21, 2008.

One Response to “Get Smart”

  1. Get Smart looks okay over all though it seems like Steve Carell is veering toward an excess of slapstick humor


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