“Get Smart” Review

Get Smart

– for some rude humor, action violence and language.
Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Dwayne Johnson
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: June 20, 2008
Official Site

Plot Summary

When the headquarters of secret U.S. spy agency CONTROL is attacked and the identities of its agents are compromised, the Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to promote his ever-eager analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), who has always dreamt of working in the field alongside his idol, stalwart superstar Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson). Smart is partnered instead with the only other agent whose identity has not been compromised: the lovely-but-lethal veteran, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway)…

Film Review

Get Smart was a fun sixties TV series co-created by comedian Mel Brooks that featured the wonderful talents of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Edward Platt as The Chief. And now, in an age where TV series’ are getting makeovers, relaunches, and theatrical retellings fairly regularly, it should be no surprise to see this beloved television series get a re-visitation.

If you’re going to remake something like a lovable TV series with an unbeatable leading man like Adams as the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart, you have to secure an actor who can come as close to the original as possible. Casting someone like Steve Carell as the lead is an inspired casting choice, and Anne Hathaway isn’t a bad selection either, but when it comes to filling all of the other show’s roles, it seems as though the filmmakers had a tougher time finding the right talent. While Dwayne Johnson works perfectly as a modern super agent who Max aspires to be — playing a character invented for the film — Alan Arkin is surprisingly bland as The Chief. Terence Stamp is a decent pick for the head of KAOS, Siegfried, but he isn’t given much to do in the film aside from insulting those around him in short intermittent clips when the story seemed to suddenly remember there’s a villain in the mix somewhere. To round out the cast of noteworthy actors, SNL alumni Kevin Nealon and Bill Murray make cameo appearances along with James Caan’s unneeded stint as a complete mockery of George W. Bush (Sadly, the things they chose to mock were wholly unfunny and only hurt the film), and Carell’s Anchorman and The Office cohort David Koechner as Larabee. But it’s appearances like Koechner’s or Caan’s gag on Bush that make this film feel not only too contemporary, but too fabricated in its approach. As if they thought the summation of certain parts would automatically equal a winning combination. Missed is what could have been a witty nod to the past and, instead, Get Smart partially
makes the kinds of mistakes that the TV-to-big-screen missteps like Starsky & Hutch or Wild Wild West or Dukes Of Hazzard (and still others) have taken. At times Get Smart does just what its title commands, but it’s few and far in between.

This isn’t all to say the new Get Smart is awful. Hardly so. What we do have is a re-imagining of the concept and characters, while the story also goes to great lengths to pay homage to the original show. We see Don Adams’ old suit, shoe phone, and even his little red car which all later play an important role in the film. A few of Adams’ signature lines also make it into the script, while the original TV show’s Siegfried, played by Bernie Kopell, makes a cameo appearance as well. Steve Carell doesn’t try to be Adams, which is probably good, but it gives him a chance to provide a new take on Agent 86. While he retains some of what we grew to love about Maxwell Smart, he also makes him a little more intelligent and even physically capable, while occasionally still managing to drop the ball in a humorous manner. Carell’s shtick and delivery is ultimately what carries the film – especially when a few moments turn a bit dull or the gags fall flat. However, Carell tends to not stray all too far from The Office‘s Michael Scott (some dialog about stereotyping may have fans of the show feeling like it’s a conversation Michael would have with his employees). Also, Anne Hathaway is strong as the female lead opposite Carell. She’s certainly shaken free any ties to her teen-actor past and graduates here to leading lady status. Carell and Hathaway have pretty good chemistry and end up making a good team as agents 86 and 99 – even when they’re struggling to rise above some weak material.

Where the film suffers most is in its formulaic and predictable pacing and storytelling. Peter Segal’s direction feels a little undecided at times – especially when it’ll jump from a dark, gritty scene where we first are (ever so vaguely) introduced to the villain, Siegfried, to scenes like an overlong and somewhat underwhelming dance sequence where Max tries to make 99 jealous by dancing with a really large woman while 99 dances with a wealthy and charming bad guy. On top of that, there are characters introduced then dismissed surprisingly quick, which makes it hard to follow what’s going on sometimes, while a sort of predictable plot twist isn’t given quite enough explanation to back up its rather contrived staging. Still then, we have some forced emotional moments (with help from Trevor Rabin’s occasionally sappy score for these particular scenes) that don’t seem to fit into the scheme of things.

And finally, we have the content of Get Smart. The movie sort of teeters between more subtle implications of crude (or as the MPAA dubs it, “rude”) humor and your even less family friendly potty or bedroom humor. Never does the film go as far as the latest offerings from the likes of Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler, but with the addition of a handful of profanity, it’s the kind of late night TV adult humor that the original Get Smart wonderfully did not contain. I find it rather sad when the film adaptation of a TV sitcom gets a more profane update. I just can’t imagine Edward Platt’s Chief blurting out a pair of “s” words on that show, and it’s disappointing. While live action PG comedies are often met with ridicule for being too “tame,” there’s no reason a team of good writers (like those who pen some of the computer-animated family comedies these days?) couldn’t make a family friendly yet cleverly-written version of Get Smart in 2008. But in this version, you can expect an assortment of mostly mild profanities (including some written in subtitles), a prolonged pee joke (that I have to admit wasn’t explicit but was one of the heartier laughs), and a brief view of a man’s bare butt through torn pants.

Overall, the first shot at bringing a new version of Get Smart to the big screen isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, but it certainly could have been a lot worse. With several jokes and gags that will likely illicit more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, Get Smart is still an amusing comedy without too much of the junk you might expect from today’s comedies, but it doesn’t quite do the original show the justice it deserves. Perhaps if they take a second stab at it, they won’t miss the mark by all that much.
John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/20/08)

Parental Guide: Content Summary
. Sex/Nudity: Various characters show cleavage during the film; All kinds of crude humor or hinted crude humor (sexual or bathroom) is present including (but not limited to): Agent 23 blows a kiss at the receptionist who seductively catches the imaginary kiss and motions to slide it down her cleavage-revealing dress; Larabee taunts Max and says he’s going to put a collar around him and make him his “b*tch,” but doesn’t complete the thought before being interrupted; While in an airplane bathroom, Max accidentally wounds himself several times while trying to cut a tie around his wrists. From the bathroom he shouts the word “ballsack.” Before going into the bathroom he says he has to “squeeze a lemon;” Max accidentally knocks himself out and awakens in a different set of clothes, asking 99 how that happened. She smiles and he asks if he’s wearing boxers and begins complaining about feeling too “free” in them (and we see him hop and shake his leg); In an evening dress, we see most of 99’s bare leg and thigh a few times. At one point she asks Max if he is staring at her butt and he says he’s not, but did but isn’t anymore; 99 dances with another man and later asks Max if he “saw” anything while searching the house. He thinks she means up her dress while she was dancing and he comments, “Yes, only once, but I don’t think you were expecting him to lift you so high;” While discussing their “cover” story as they pose as a married couple, 99 mentions that he wants to have kids and she doesn’t and Max begins to argue with her about this telling her that her biological clock is ticking and her eggs will dry up in her uterus. Later, 99 makes a crack about her “dusty uterus;” While locked in a room where the only way out is an eye scanner (and he can’t use his own eye), Max struggles to pick up a heavier man off a table and as he does so from behind the unconscious man, two guys walk by the door and look through the window. One stops and looks back in to see Max struggling to lift the man from behind (and it looks more like a homo-erotic moment, played for laughs). The man looking in then smiles before the other man pulls him away from the window; We see two men kiss but in a non-erotic fashion as one tries to get away from the
other (and does it to shock his attacker). The kiss is held for a long moment and in slow motion as played for laughs; We see a man’s bare butt cheeks through ripped pants briefly; Max accidentally falls on top of 99 and his hand lands on her clothed chest (nothing graphic as she’s wearing a thick sort of suit); Some miscommunication implies that Max and 99 might have slept together (they didn’t) and Agent 23 is upset, and it’s revealed that he had a relationship with 99 at some point; There’s a bathroom gag where Max is peeing in a toilet and we hear the stream splashing in the toilet as he eaves drops on a few bad guys. We then hear him attempt to inconspicuously time his peeing with the men talking so he can hear them (so we hear the water splashes start and stop repeatedly); We briefly see 99 in a bathrobe while she’s just in her underwear (but it’s so quick, we don’t really see anything); Max tells 99 to get a knife from his pocket so she tries to do so with her foot and he starts laughing, saying “that’s not my knife!”
. Vulgarity/Language: 3 “s” words (1 in subtitle, all with “holy”), 6 “d*mn,” 3 “h*ll,” 2 “a**h*le” (1 in subtitle), 2 “S.O.B,” 2 “a” words (1 in subtitle), 1 “cr*p,” 2 “b*tch” (1 incomplete), 2 “L-rd,” 1 “d*ckwad,” 9 derivatives of “G-d”; A woman gives a group of women the middle finger.
. Alcohol/Drugs: Maybe some miscellaneous drinking at a dinner party.
. Blood/Gore: We see small, needle-like harpoons sticking through Max’s ear and into his face and through his nostril; 99 has some blood under her nose after a fight; We see some characters shot but beyond a very brief bullet hole appearing in a man’s clothes, there doesn’t appear to be blood; We see a brief shot of Max flying in a jet with vomit on his face as he holds a full vomit bag (which we see then sag over and empty a ton of vomit out everywhere)
. Violence: We see some characters shot and killed; Max hits a man in the face with a fire extinguisher; Agent 23 staples a paper to Larabee’s head (another character does this later on); A man falls from a plane and through a building and creates a hole in the ground (but lives… to throw a farm animal at and hit another man); 99 slaps around Max; A building blows up; There’s some hand-to-hand combat with punching, kicking, and people thrown around; A prolonged car chase with fighting; A car catches on fire and is hit by a train and explodes (killing a passenger); Max tackles a man (to save others); Control guards punch and kick Max after he antagonizes them; Chief punches a security guard; Chief tackles a man and they fight (we later hear a recording of this); Max tries to scrape gum off his shoe with a match while on an airplane and is tackled (and other slapstick violence)

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