Short version: Get Smart manages to combine slapstick, wit, action, and a bit of romance in a package that will leave you smiling even after you leave the theater.
Well I’ll be damned.
Based on the trailers and clips I’d seen, I wasn’t sure what sort of review I’d be giving Get Smart. Imagine my pleasant surprise as it opened with a laugh out loud scene and an extended nod to the original series that felt more like tribute that rip-off. It wavers a bit upon take off but once it gets going Get Smart delivers a great and fun ride.
We meet Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) and immediately figure out what sort of fellow he is: very analytic and detail oriented, a guy who lives for the fine details of analysis within the scope of his job at CONTROL. The agency is supposedly no longer in existence, thought to have faded away with the cold war, but they’re still around and competing with the CIA.
Max has always dreamed of becoming a field agent and is on his eighth attempt at passing the exam. He and other “nerds” are the butt of jokes by the some of the field agents, but they have an ally in the coolest field agent of them all: Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson).
At the start of the movie Max has never met Agent 99 (the most lovely Anne Hathaway), but when he meets her immediately rubs her the wrong way with his condescending manner. Events transpire that thrust him into the field and them on a mission together where they must track down nuclear weapons under the control of their nemesis: CHAOS. That organization is run by a man called Sigfried (played with bone-dry humor by Terrence Stamp).
Despite Max’s inexperience in the field, 99 comes to grudgingly respect his abilities. That’s not to say that he is a born super-spy of course – anyone who is even remotely familiar with the original series starring Don Adams and Barbra Feldon knows he is a well-meaning, but bumbling fellow who only manages to accomplish anything through sheer luck.
Get Smart was directed by Peter Segal, who up until this film has not really written or directed anything that’s caught my eye. And the only item I recognized on the combined resumes of the writers was the recent film Failure to Launch. Well somehow their combined talents came together to produce a film that is genuinely funny with some killer action to boot!
Sure, there was some PG-13 crude humor, but it was quite mild and actually funny. Contrast this to the bludgeon the audience crotch humor of Zohan which was so lame even the audience stopped laughing after a while. Steve Carrel is at his best here, playing his stock clueless character, but with a fair share of selfless heroism thrown in as well. Anne Hathaway is great as the “straight guy” to Carrel’s bits and Dwayne Johnson has definitely crossed over into comedic actor. His willingness to poke fun at himself makes him all the more endearing. Alan Arkin, as the man in charge of CONTROL has still got it after all these years and has some great scenes as well.
I’m not going to give away the funny bits because I don’t want to spoil it and I think you should REALLY go see this. A couple of the funniest lines actually took political potshots at both sides of the aisle, giving each side equal measure. Carrel works his facial features like a master craftsman and is great fun to watch. He doesn’t try to imitate Adams but comes up with his own twist on the character that has echoes of the original. I will say that the dance scene had the audience losing it and that at the end of the film there was applause which you don’t get very often.
I also got a kick out of a huge hulking character in the film that seemed to me to be a young Richard Kiel (“Jaws” from a couple of the Roger Moore James Bond movies) reincarnated.
No, you won’t find any biting social commentary here – but if the goal of a comedy is to make the audience laugh, Get Smart achieves that goal very well.