Review: Get Smart

Steve Carell in an entertaining TV update

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

A silly, endearing update of the 60’s TV show, Peter Segal’s Get Smart is content enough to re-create the tone and style of the original rather than concerning itself with becoming an overblown blockbuster a la I Spy or Wild Wild West or Charlie’s Angels or Lost in Space or, well, the list goes on. Admittedly, by the end, with a helicopter chase, some extensive use of stuntmen, and massive explosions, the film indeed becomes overblown; still, it´s a fun ride up till then. In this age of Austin Powers-like over-the-top spy movie sendups, it´s refreshing to find one that plays it relatively straight.

Get Smart
Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Terry Crews, David Koechner, James Caan, Bill Murray, Patrick Warburton, Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, Ken Davitian, David S. Lee. Written by Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember, from characters created by Mel Brooks & Buck Henry.
IMDb link

Steve Carell stars as Maxwell Smart, who begins the film as an analyst for the US spy agency CONTROL; he continually petitions to become a field agent like his idol Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock), but is continually turned down by CONTROL chief Alan Arkin. Things change when CONTROL headquarters are attacked by archenemies KAOS and agents are either killed or have their identities compromised. Maxwell becomes Agent 86, and is paired with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) for a mission to Moscow to investigate KAOS and criminal mastermind Siegfried (Terence Stamp). The expected globetrotting adventure ensues, which includes some flirty romance between the two agents and culminates in L.A. and involves a nuclear weapon, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the president of the United States (a hammy James Caan with a Texas drawl.)

Just like the TV show, which ran in the late 60´s and starred Don Adams as Agent 86, the film is funny in a dry, deadpan kind of way. The action rarely pauses for jokes, instead they´re carefully inserted along the way in the form of throwaway one-liners and sarcastic little quips; there´s a certain conviction to the humor that allows us to still believe in what´s going on. While I was never in stitches, I had a smile on my face for most of the film; partly, perhaps, because I had given up hope of a decent old-TV-show-to-summer-blockbuster transition.

Director Segal is perhaps best known for recent Adam Sandler comedies; he has a lot more to work with here, and brings everything together in a solid, if workmanlike, fashion. Music by Trevor Rabin smartly incorporates the classic theme tune from the TV series. Location work seems outstanding, even if Moscow was created digitally and most of the movie filmed in Montreal.

Casting is spot-on, even if it occasionally feels like the actors were specifically chosen to appeal to separate demographics. Carell provides a likable and enigmatic Maxwell Smart that never feels forced or dips into a parody of the character; he’s not Don Adams nor does he try to be.  Dalip Singh (otherwise a professional wrestler known as The Great Khali) is a lot of fun as a henchman cross between character actors Richard Kiel (Jaws in the James Bond films) and Jack O’Halloran. Bill Murray shows up in an amusing cameo as Agent 13.


Also opening: Juraj Jakubisko´s massively disappointing Bathory (showtimes | IMDb), playing in English at Palace Cinemas Slovanský dům, dubbed in Czech elsewhere. Please click here for a full review.

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