Synopsis: Steve Carell is in CONTROL as Maxwell Smart, the novice agent often out of his depth but never out of options in this action comedy pitting him against the nuclear scheme of the evil spy group KAOS. Anne Hathaway partners with Max as ever capable Agent 99. And Director Peter Segal (The Longest Yard) guides his stars (including Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin) through the dangerous realm of molar radios, multifunction pocketknives, exploding dental floss and more.
Get Smart 6.0
I never had the intention of seeing ‘Get Smart’. I’ve become wary of big-screen adaptations of TV shows; they’re usually poorly-translated and are nothing more but a studio bigwig’s plan for making a quick buck off of a beloved memory while it’s still possible, before the interested generations move on to other things.
The odds are just too unfavourable for my interest to be piqued; for every good one (The Addams Family, The Fugitive, The Untouchables), there are a dozen really bad ones (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Avengers, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, Car 54, Where Are You?, Casper, Dragnet, Dudley Do-Right, Dukes of Hazard, Fat Albert, The Flintstones, George of the Jungle, The Green Hornet, The Honeymooners, I Spy, Inspector Gadget, Josie and the Pussycats, Land of the Lost, Leave it to Beaver, Masters of the Universe, McHale’s Navy, The Mod Squad, Mr. Magoo, My Favourite Martian, Popeye, Richie Rich, The Saint, Scooby-Doo, The Shadow, Thunderbirds, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Wild Wild West, Yogi Bear, …etc. )
But a friend gave me the DVD for my birthday and assured me that it was actually pretty good. Now, this is a friend whose tastes I trust, even though he frequently gives me painfully bad b-movies for gits and shiggles. So I reconsidered it. After all, the stuff he actually likes is usually of at least of moderate quality.
But there are exceptions…
…and ‘Get Smart’ is one of those.
At first glance, ‘Get Smart’ should have something good to offer audiences: it’s based on a (once) popular TV comedy series, it has a decent cast, and it’s got a snazzy budget. However, its key problem is the writing – something that’s impossible to gauge by watching the trailer (and film producers like it that way ! ). And poor writing will quite literally plague any motion picture.
Our writers, who shall remain nameless because they have absolutely no recognition factor, at least started out with a decent idea: to make the film relatively serious, but with some comedy injected along the way. Whether that reflects the original TV show or not, I couldn’t tell you, since I’ve seen very little of it. But at least it doesn’t strictly go for the laughs – which, in this case, is fortuitous because the gags are generally not funny.
The dialogue is absolutely insipid; what should have been fun was lame and what was supposed to be engaging was tired and trite. To make matters worse, the repartee between our two leads was so unbelievably weak that it didn’t deliver anything clever, funny or trenchant; instead of being treated to a duel of wits, we were offered a duo of twits. I just sat there wondering why they even bothered to talk at all, seeing as they had nothing noteworthy to say to each other.
The gags are so predictable that I could see them coming. And I don’t have a gift of foresight, so it says something about the content of ‘Get Smart’; either the jokes were déjà vu or they were simply so poorly set up that I couldn’t help but notice. I’m not sure, but it really ruined the comedy for me. There was one wicked gag featuring The Rock (uh, sorry… Dwayne Johnson ) and a stapler, though. Oh, I saw it coming, but it was delivered in a way that gave me the utmost satisfaction.
Agent Smart and Agent 99 are on a plane, going on a mission. For reasons that remain unknown, they have yet to decide on their cover – so they start discussing this on the plane, surrounded by people, including an enemy agent (whom they had already uncovered). Obviously, they start to argue… insipidly (these one-liners really hurt!).
To make matters worse, from the get-go their whole plan was to skydive into the field (from a passenger plane, no less!), thereby nullifying the purpose of even having a cover, seeing as they wouldn’t need it once they hit the ground.
But, before they move to disembark, Smart suddenly realizes that he has gum on his shoe. Let me frame this for a moment: he’s sitting on a plane, with his right leg folded over his left and then, for no apparent reason, he realizes that he has gum on his shoe.
Now, normally, this is something one discovers by walking about and feeling the stickiness on one’s sole – it’s not something one realizes out of thin air. Dumb. But then he proceeds to try and remove the gum with a wooden match, as one normally would (!), which inspires the suddenly alert and paranoid passengers to panic – thinking that he’s got a shoe bomb!
The only reason for this particular sequence was to supposedly serve the audience some purportedly witty exchanges between the two agents – and then throw in some physical comedy to hammer it home (which would, presumably, really put the audience in stitches! ). It failed on all counts: the humour, the dialogue, and the storytelling.
And this is but one example amongst many.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
‘Get Smart’ has an appealing, but completely squandered cast:
– Steve Carell is decent as a replacement for Don Adams, but the role appear to have changed (not unlike Tom Cruise’s version of “Mission Impossible”) and it’s a little on the bland side.
– Anne Hathaway is neither funny or convincing as Agent 99. So far, she has failed to impress in any role, but in light of the quality of the film I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt this time.
– Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) is better than I expected, but he’s given a cut-out character to work with. Still, I was suitably impressed with the guy.
– Alan Arkin plays Alan Arkin. Aside from his ill-advised take on Inspector Clouseau, I’ve never seen him act differently.
– Terence Stamp plays… Terence Stamp. He’s good enough, but hardly memorable. And his usual intensity is somewhat lacking.
– James Caan played less of a tough guy than usual and I liked it. It was a vacuous part, but I enjoyed seeing him do something different.
– Bill Murray was pathetic and wooden (haha!). His brief cameo was too long for my tastes; it’s a part that shouldn’t have been in the film at all (hmmm… unless it was a key component of the original show, I suppose…)
The film was made with far too much budget: it turned into a big-scale action film. Except that it’s not at all the kind of film I would have expected from ‘Get Smart’, considering its pedigree – I had imagined something with just a bit more money than ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little’ (which is the perfect example of a pretty good spy comedy). At 80 million Benjamins, I’d half-expect a better product than this.
But that’s the problem, isn’t? ‘Get Smart’ was a product, nothing more; it has neither heart nor brains. On the upside, while its serious and humourous elements flopped dramatically, it does win the award for the most ironic movie title of 2008.
I suspect that ‘Get Smart’ is likely one of those movies that would have been more enjoyable if I had watched it with others – presumably, people who find it funny and whose laughter is infectious (although I can’t fathom anyone I know would find this funny… ).