Get Smart Movie Review (2 Stars)


Movie Reviews by Michael Phillips

 

Missed it by that much.

Actually, the new version of "Get Smart" misses by a fair-size margin. It's too bad. It's just trying to give us a good time at the retroplex. Even if you're 14 and you've never heard Irving Szathmary's classic deedley-deedley-deedley-deedley theme before, it's enough to make you smile. This is all any of these TV-to-screen comedies are after: a few laughs. Who knows? "Get Smart," starring Steve Carell in the role originated by Don Adams (though initially offered to Tom Poston!), may well turn into a summer hit of the "well, it's good enough" variety.

But if it does -- if director Peter Segal's dutiful, heavy-spirited comedy clicks with fans of the old TV series as well as with those too young to give a rip about the original--it'll be a case of the right cast winning out over the wrong material, material that is immaterial regarding what made the show so popular in its spy-infested, James Bonded, "Man From U.N.C.L.E." era.

Segal is going for his own style and tone, different from the 1965-1970 series. He wants not a spoof, not even a comedy, primarily, but a big, noisy action comedy, with the occasional bout of wince-inducing slapstick amid an onslaught of impersonal stunt work, half of which is zazzed up with impersonal computer-generated effects. Let me put it to you. Is it funny watching Carell's Maxwell Smart accidentally clock Alan Arkin's stunt double in the head with a fire extinguisher? I guess it could've been, but it would've taken a director and an editor who knew how to handle that sort of thing.

Carell swims against the tide, as do his key co-stars. The screenplay by the "Failure to Launch" team of Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember (though one suspects the strenuous efforts of various script doctors) pairs Smart with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway in the old Barbara Feldon role, though without Feldon's perpetually insinuating vocal delivery) as they pose, uneasily, as newlyweds to gather intelligence about America's enemy organization, KAOS. Max's adversary Siegfried (a grim Terence Stamp) has the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles in his plans. The big bomb is set to go off at a key, cacophonous moment in Beethoven's Ninth in a concert at Disney Hall. As Max might say: It's the old "Man Who Knew Too Much" trick!

Max and 99, both of whom are saddled with back-story involving self-image issues, globe-trot from Washington, D.C., to Moscow to L.A. The jokes, well ... the jokes must've gotten lost on the Moscow leg of the flight. I like Carell. I enjoy Hathaway, who was key to the deserved success of last year's "The Devil Wears Prada." But they're stuck with lead weights for banter, and the occasional "Sorry about that, Chief" and "Would you believe ...?" and "Oh, Max!" only bring back memories of why some of us loved the show. Director Segal has done his share of comedies ("Tommy Boy," "Anger Management"), but they tend to be shrill and coarse instead of clever, and his eye for physical comedy goes straight for the pain, instead of the painfully funny.

Two human elements in this mechanical enterprise pulled me through. Bill Murray plays Agent 13, hiding in a tree. He's wonderful in his one scene. Also, Arkin's Chief lightens the load, simply because the actor owns the most indelible deadpan vocal topspin in the business, and because he knows in his bones that if you under-react to a lot of frenetic nonsense, the audience will appreciate the strategy.

As I said: It might get by. But it's films such as these that make you appreciate what the old folks refer to as "a light touch."

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in 'Get Smart'

About "Get Smart"

The action comedy "Get Smart" sends CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) on his most dangerous and important mission: to thwart the latest plot for world domination by the evil crime syndicate known as KAOS.

It also happens to be his very first mission.

When the headquarters of secret U.S. spy agency CONTROL is attacked and the identities of its agents compromised, the Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to promote his ever-eager analyst Maxwell Smart, 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).

As Smart and 99 get closer to unraveling KAOS' master plan-and each other-they discover that key KAOS operative Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and his sidekick, Shtarker (Ken Davitian), are scheming to cash in with their network of terror. With no field experience and little time, Smart-armed with nothing but a few spy-tech gadgets and his unbridled enthusiasm-must defeat KAOS if he is to save the day.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Mosaic Media Group / Mad Chance / Callahan Filmworks Production of a Peter Segal Film: "Get Smart," starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp and James Caan. The film is directed by Peter Segal and was written by Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember, based on characters created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Andrew Lazar, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner and Michael Ewing are the producers, with Peter Segal, Steve Carell, Brent O'Connor, Jimmy Miller, Dana Goldberg and Bruce Berman serving as executive producers.

The creative team includes Academy Award-winning director of photography Dean Semler ("Dances with Wolves"), production designer Wynn Thomas ("A Beautiful Mind"), Academy Award-nominated editor Richard Pearson ("United 93") and Academy Award-winning costume designer Deborah Scott ("Titanic"). Music is by Grammy Award nominee Trevor Rabin (Yes music video "90125 Live").

"Get Smart" will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. It is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some rude humor, action violence and language. Soundtrack album on Var'se Sarabande.

 

 

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