Get Smart (2008)
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I remember enjoying the "Get Smart" TV series when I was a kid, and like some other reviewers here, I feared the remake might screw it up (even though watching a couple of 5th-season episodes recently reminded me just how bad the show itself became late in the game.) But this movie version strikes just the right balance of action and comedy, while also balancing fresh ideas with welcome nods to the TV series.
After all, it wouldn't be "Get Smart" without "Would you believe...", "Sorry about that, Chief", or "Missed it by THAT much." It was also great to see such classics as the shoe phone, the Cone of Silence, Hymie the robot, and not one but two of the cars that Don Adams would have driven. But while some remakes mining the past for material have nothing new to say, and get stuck in paying homage to their predecessors, the "Get Smart" movie has a pretty good story of its own.
Now this isn't Robert Ludlum material, and I doubt anyone is real surprised to see who turns out to be a bad guy, but it's a lot of fun along the way, with either a sight gag or surprisingly good action (and often both at the same time) coming down the pike every few minutes. There just aren't really any slow spots. I'm sure a lot of funny stuff got left on the cutting room floor (surely they didn't put Carrell in a fat suit for a mere ten seconds of film) but the pacing felt just right. We can catch all that other stuff when the DVD comes out at Christmas.
Steve Carrel plays Agent 86 almost exactly the way he portrays Dunder-Mifflin's Michael Scott. He comes off as basically well-meaning and earnest, and although a bit bumbling at times, his Maxwell Smart is thankfully not Don Adam's version. Neither was this one of those "Naked Gun" characters who stumbles into success despite his incompetence; Smart has some hilariously bad moments, but is never made out to be simply a lucky fool.
Carrell and Anne Hathaway have surprisingly good chemistry, and Alan Arkin is perfect taking over Edward Platt's role as "the Chief." Former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson does a good job as Agent 23, and an even larger wrestler (7-foot 2-inch, 387-pound Dalip Singh from "The Longest Yard") is well-cast as a KAOS underling, although most of the other main bad guys are rather forgettable. Even TV-series KAOS agent Bernie Koppel shows up for a cameo, as does Patrick Warburton (who will be terrific in the inevitable sequel) and Bill Murray (almost unidentifiable hiding in a tree.)
Bottom line: you won't come out of this movie feeling as if you were cheated out of your money. Judging from the laughter in the theater and smiles in the lobby as we left, a lot of folks agreed with me. This is going to make a ton of money, and deserves it. Look for "Get Smart II" in a couple of years, and let's just hope it is as good as this one.
P.S. - It's rated PG-13, but there's very little that's objectionable for even younger viewers (Carrel rips the seat out of his pants.) Take the kids, and have a good time!
I cannot claim to be an expert on the original 1960s TV series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, but I do have enough knowledge to know that this is a fitting and loving tribute that won't insult fans of the show, or alienate newcomers with countless in-jokes. The casting of Steve Carell as the well-meaning and often bungling secret agent, Maxwell Smart, was a great decision. Carell is able to capture the spirit of the performance of late actor, Don Adams, while not trying to ape Adams' distinctive voice and mannerisms. He fits comfortably into the role, and does not make Smart into an incompetent goof. He plays the part as a man with some obvious intelligence, but things don't often go the way he intends. It's a very likable comic performance, and Carell even gives the character a lot more personality than I expected walking into the film.
As is expected, the plot is mainly something to hang a lot of situations for Smart to be in over his head. He starts off as an analyst for CONTROL, a top secret government spy organization devoted to thwarting the terrorist designs of the evil organization KAOS. Smart dreams of being a field agent, and has even taken the test eight separate times, only to be turned down each time by the Chief (Alan Arkin), who thinks Smart belongs as an analyst. When KAOS launches a surprise attack on CONTROL headquarters, killing most of the field agents, the Chief has no choice but to promote Smart, and send him off on the latest mission. He is teamed up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to travel to Russia and uncover a secret weapons factory where the evil organization is developing nuclear weapons to target America. With the aid of Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) back at the base, Smart and Agent 99 will attempt to stop head KAOS agent, Sigfried (Terrence Stamp), from carrying out his master plan of destruction.
Get Smart is breezy, frequently very funny, and never once slows down enough to become dull. This is one of those movies where you can tell that the cast is having a great time, and that joy carries through on the screen. The movie is a comedy, but the action scenes and stunt work on display are truly first rate. What's perhaps most impressive is that the movie finds a perfect way to blend the silliness and the spectacle, so that the two halves never seem out of place. The entire cast play the comedy as if they are smart people who can't believe what they've just done, or what is happening to them. This is a comedy that laughs with the characters, not at them. There's a scene where Maxwell and Agent 99 have to crash a lavish party being thrown by a suspected enemy agent, and Smart winds up dancing with an obese woman. A lesser movie would have mocked the woman, but here, the movie finds humor in the situation in other ways. The fact that the woman winds up with the final laugh, and that it's not at her expense, was very welcome.
Aside from the very strong lead from Carell, Anne Hathaway brings a certain sexy yet vulnerable charm to her role. She's a good match for him as a co-star, and they create a good "buddy" chemistry as the film goes on. They're slightly less successful when they're asked to bring romantic chemistry into the relationship, but it's not really their fault, since the film does seem to be trying to start a franchise, so I'm sure there's time for it to build in a sequel. Former pro-wrestler Dwayne Johnson drops his "the Rock" title for the first time, meaning he's finally serious about moving beyond his past and becoming a real actor. He manages to get some laughs here, and even has some charisma, leading me to believe he could be the rare wrestler to move onto an actual career in films. There are even some fun cameos, including James Caan as the President of the United States, and Bill Murray turns up as a fellow field agent who has the unfortunate task of having to pose as a tree while undercover. There are some more to look for, some for fans of the original show and some for fans of Saturday Night Live, but I'll leave those for you to discover yourself.
Get Smart is probably one of the stronger TV-to-film adaptations to come along in a while. It's not Earth-stopping entertainment, and it never pretends to be. It's merely a light and simple summer comedy that's a great way to kill an afternoon. We need those during the summer as much as we need the big blockbusters, so it's fortunate that this is a very good one. And despite the film's PG-13 rating, I can't imagine any parent being offended by letting their kid watch it. Get Smart is harmless and entertaining, and sometimes, that's all a movie needs to be.
P.P.S. I just read the interview with Mel Brooks, and I'm delighted that he loves the movie made from the TV Series. He is certainly the best critic of it, and so it thrilled me, all the good things he said about it, because I felt the same way!
Steve Carell is at his best. He is incredible as Maxwell Smart. He does channel Don Adams when appropriate, but really makes the character his own. His chemistry on-screen with Anne Hathaway, who plays Agent 99, is great. There's been some complaints about the age difference, but they clear that up in the film.
The story line is solid and helps introduce this great spy comedy to a new generation. The cast is absolutely stacked, Alan Arkin, the Rock, Dave Koechner all kick ass and help make 'Get Smart' an instant classic.
If you were a fan of the original 'Get Smart' series, there's no question you'll love this movie. Check it out.
There are some good laughs in "Get Smart", but what pleasantly surprised me is how well-done the action is. From an exhilarating freefall sequence that was probably designed as a homage to the opening of "Moonraker" to Carell's and Hathaway's quick, efficient fight scenes (choreoghraphed by a veteran at this sort of thing, James Lew), and from the explosions at the "bakery" factory to the incredibly kinetic final chase sequence involving various means of transportation, the action in this movie probably surpasses the recent James Bond pictures, helped by the fact that a lot of it seems to have been done by the actors themselves, willing to take some risks. So people who are more into action than into comedy should still get some satisfaction out of this.
Nothing brilliant, but a dependable crowd-pleaser nonetheless. I'd give it *** out of 4 stars.
First, this is no cheap knockoff. The production team captured Buck Henry's creation very credibly both in tone and substance. It reminded me very much of the late '80s homage to "Dragnet," which was executed with love and great attention to detail (right down to the product placement of Camel cigarettes and a photo of Jack Webb on the Dan Akroyd's desk). It's no small feat updating something as much a part of its era into a modern sensibility. There were even echoes of the early James Bond films (especially in The Rock's ladykiller character flirting with CONTROL's "Miss Moneypenny" and in some of the musical cues). On the other hand, the production values were all first-rate and contemporary, including a CGI effect of an aerial fly-around and push-in to a 747 that was reminiscent of the key shot in the pilot of Star Trek.
Steve Carrell makes a very reasonable Agent 86; where Don Adams played the character as a bumbling naif, Carrell makes him into a goodhearted wannabe who, despite having the kind of personality that renders him invisible in society, still has intelligence and an earnestness that can make him into hero material when he works at it. He reminded me of Jim Varney's portrayal of Jed Clampett: pure of heart and belief in his fellow man, yet with a bit of chops in dealing with the dark side of society. He fumbles around a lot getting his sea legs after years of being an ineffectual fatso (viz. impetuously slamming a fire extinguisher into the noggin of his boss at one point) but in a pinch, he's quickwitted and moves with decision. (He also quite reasonably feels more secure in briefs than boxer shorts; I don't know what Adam's take on this issue was).
On the other hand, Anne Hathaway nails Agent 99 with a performance absolutely capturing Barbara Feldon's creation, right down to the tone of voice, the raised eyebrows, and at least three different dead-on intonations of "Oh, Max!" Nevertheless, Hathaway moves the character beyond the pre-feminist liberation era and invests 99 with a believable 21st century sexuality and sense of empowerment. She's clearly in charge during the first half of the movie, only slowly yielding to an appreciation of Carrell's growing sense of command (and her own feelings toward him) as we move into Act 3.
Alan Arkin brings an odd turn to the Chief, playing him with a much-less-exasperated fatalism than did Edward Platt. In an interview, Arkin says he saw the character as a very good principal of a very bad middleschool. He comes across as a somewhat old codger closing in on retirement who's comfortably in charge and doesn't try to micromanage, and he has an important role in the climax piloting a Cessna over Disney Hall downtown, but I missed one of the catchlines they didn't include in this revision: namely, the Chief getting one of his headaches. (The other catchline they left out was 86's frequent "That's the second biggest (fill in the blank) I've ever seen.")
Everything else was there, though: We see the Cone of Silence (technologically updated), a very clever CGI revision of the entrance passage to CONTROL HQ, cameos by both Hymie the Robot and Fang, and there's even a passing utilization in this cellphone-obsessed society to the shoe-phone (appropriated from the Smithsonian institution display of the old "defunct" CONTROL). On the other hand, the agency is now under the Homeland Security Department and answers to the Vice President (when they can find him) and uses lots of high-tech, satellite surveillance and GPS gear. Chaos is in cahoots with terrorist organizations around the world and we know they're bad because they drive around in SUVs (the most satisfying and "green" event is seeing one of Satan's Sedans being demolished by a freight train).
Oh, and BTW, it's also a love story.
This movie was full of problems and jokes that just didn't work. I loved Steve Carrell in Anchor Man, and I like his comedy and style. But I will tell you that I never once laughed while I was watching this movie. Yes, I had a couple of light moments, a couple of chuckles, but no real laughs. Nothing that struck me at all.
Spoiler Alert! One ridiculous scene was when Max had his hands binded on the airplane and he goes to the bathroom to try to escape. He uses his special Swiss Army knife...but instead of just using THE BLADE OF THE KNIFE, he tries to SHOOT the binding with his miniature crossbow. And as the crossbow miss-fires and shoots little arrows into him over and over again (almost putting out his EYE), Max doesn't give up or try the blade instead...no, he just keeps shooting himself with the crossbow. What was he really expecting to do with that crossbow? It seemed to be THE WORST option on the knife to try to remove the bindings. It just made absolutely no sense.
That is a good example of the typical circumstances in the scenes that made up this movie. They were ridiculous, poorly thought out, poorly motivated, and made of pure nonsense. And that was truly distracting.
As I said, this movie was a big let-down, and I recommend you avoid it. A note to the IMDb: You should do something about these phony reviews that people are leaving. It degrades the authenticity of the site.
For those who have seen the original, the writers of this movie thought they'd include some memories. They mention Herbie, Fang (now a worthless tiny furry dog that Carell covets), the shoe phone, the cone of silence, and his classic red car and the doors and phone that intro'd the show. The classic music is back, but now everything is updated, generally for the worse. Cone of silence is now some weird blue telekinetic force field, control headquarters are right under a museum that preserves Control's past. The movie lacks any creative random tech, and replaces it with crossbows in swiss army knives. Lots of the "humor" in the movie is Carrel hurting himself, or another character being hurt, whether it be carrel spending two minutes shooting himself accidentally with the crossbow, or getting punched by security guards, or throwing up in airplanes. In the original, Smart would insult a big foe, attack him with no success, and try to buddy up with him before getting pulverized. In this one, he attacks without success and gets pummeled. It seems the screenwriters didn't understand the humor was established with the dialogue and not the pointless violence. It's like they took the names from the show, and cut out all that made it good in the first place.
The poster hides Carell's face beyond that of Hathaway's. The movie likewise, shies away from anything that could make it good. They intertwine the classic music with the over-dramatic action and romantic music in big-budget films. Whereas the original fed off a campy feel, this one replaces quality with massive doses of cgi explosions and pow sound effects. I was really looking forward to this, as I finished the original series just two months ago and it ranked in my top five shows of all time. However, this was a massive disappointment. The credits say they collaborated with Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, but in all the things I've read on the internet, they were largely left out of the writing process. In conclusion, if you want to waste your money on a cash-in with little value and no respect to its namesake, go for it. But be prepared that the ride is not how you remembered it.
PS: I almost forgot the George Bush humor. They mention "Nuculor", falling asleep at fine art, President's working for their vice pres, and appreciating tackles over solving real problems. If you're into hearing the same jokes you heard 3-4 years ago in big budget movie form, chuck your money here.
As a parent, the only real problem that I had with it was one visually sexual sight gag. Other than that, it was funny, it wasn't the same old stuff done again and again, and I thought the actors did a great job of sticking to the old show, while making the characters theirs just a little bit.
One thing I did think was really good about this film was some of the casting choices; Carrell is particularly good here and is very convincing in his respective role as the bumbling & inept rookie agent. He brings a sort of naïve charm to many of his performances and I can't think of a role I've seen him in where I didn't enjoy his performance. Likewise, I think that Hathaway is a perfect compliment to Carrell and their chemistry in this was great - Hathaway pulls off the sexy, sassy & ultra confident field agent with ease. Alan Arkin is a great actor and is always watchable. Likewise, I thought Terrence Stamp was a very effective villain and was quite menacing. Even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (who is not the best of actors) managed to also be quite good here.
I wasn't convinced by all of the characters however; I found Koechner & Crews characters to be more annoying than funny. The same could be said of the two nerds who were also annoying rather than funny (although not as much as Koechner & Crews). Bill Murray also has a cameo in this which seemed a bit pointless to me.
The one problem with this film was its rather muddled plot- I found it to be very unfocused and it seemed to jump around from place to place and the narrative seemed to jump back and forward which made the story hard to follow at times. Although this was a problem for me, thankfully it wasn't a huge problem as I still found that I enjoyed the film as a whole even if the plot was a little scattershot at times. The main reasons that this film works is due to the excellent chemistry between Hathaway and Carrell and their great interplay makes it possible to ignore some of the issues with the plotting.
Get Smart is funny, but it's not a film that's consistently funny but rather a film that is occasionally funny - although I must admit that some of the jokes were really funny so perhaps it's just a case of quality over quantity. Whilst I haven't seen the original TV Series the closest thing that this film reminds me of is Johnny English - therefore if you enjoyed Johnny English then you should enjoy this too. Nothing spectacular, but it's definitely worth a look.
Being a die-hard fan of the original series (starring Don Adams) I was really looking forward to this. Poor fool me. This is sillier and more brain dead than a monkey's bottom.
To say it was bad would be a severe understatement. It is/was the worst movie (well first 30 minutes of one) I have seen for a long time. I couldn't stand more than the first half hour, preferring to watch my hard drive de-fragment.
I can tolerate bad... bad is O.K., sometimes even cute. BUT up with contrived Hollywood crap (and this has to be the worst in many years) I will not put. This movie is a gross insult to the collective intelligence of humanity! My five year-old daughter could have written better - and she is not even dislexic!!! I'm really tempted to try watching the rest of it, but I'm afraid I have better things to do... like making pizza dough and watching it rise.
What a sad disappointment. No... I'm buggered off! What a swindle! As Mel Brookes once said; "Piece of shirt!"
I was hoping "Get Smart" to be a comedy with intelligent humour, but I was so disappointed. The plot is hopelessly contrived and full of clichés. The film is full of silly jokes that are irritating instead of funny. Those so called funny scenes are repetitive and tiring. The tooth microphone joke is not funny, but they did it three or four times. The get hit by a car scene is annoying as it tries to be funny by stating the obvious. Hence, the scene become not funny.
"Get Smart" is boring, with irritating and silly humour that fails to be funny. I am thoroughly disappointed by it.
The writing is pathetically lame. There is not one funny, clever, or witty line. There is not one good sight gag.
The directing is terrible. Comedy relies on timing. Someone should tell the director that. Every line that is supposed to be funny (and isn't) is delivered with absolutely the worst sense of comic timing I've ever seen.
Logan Lamech www.eloquentbooks.com/LingeringPoets.html
As for Maxwell Smart, he is also quite different from the TV version. Don Adams' version was a guy who was essentially a lucky moron. Steve Carell's version is clumsy, but he's also a genius at interpreting data and forecasting enemy action. A smart Maxwell Smart?!?! What gives?! In addition, Chaos and Siegfried are smart and very dangerous, Agent 99 is a macho killing machine and all the humor and gentleness of the show is gone.
So, to enjoy the film it really is best that you are young...very young. Otherwise, you will be confused and irritated by the whole thing. I teach high school, and several of the kids liked the film-- as it was clearly aimed only at them and people about their age. For anyone else, don't bother.
Considering the budget the movie seemed to have, it's embarrassing they couldn't do an even passable job.
We went to the cinema with no exceptions' at all and the hope to see a somewhat funny movie that wouldn't be too taxing on the mind. My friend fell asleep halfway through the movie and I spend the next 2 hours hoping that it would finally pick up. A hope, which died with the end credits.
Let's get one thing straight... If you think Steve Carrel is funny then you'll be forgiving to this movie. If, like the rest of the world with an IQ higher than 30, you think he's as funny as cancer then you won't like it. But even if you are indifferent to the lead protagonist you are gonna walk out of this crappy flick within the first 20 minutes.
It's an absolutely awful waste of talent and the script makes fools of the actors who agreed to play in this colossal let down. This utter waste of time has absolutely zero redeeming features and there is nothing that I can think of that makes even one scene worth re-telling.
Save yourself the torture of this and do something more pleasurable like stab your eyes with an ice pick.
Updated for today's post, post-cold war period, the story jumps around with no continuity and just doesn't fit the persona of the original story lines spoofing the CIA and the KGB. I heard that there was bad chemistry on the set between Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway... I'm not surprised, it really bubbles over in their performances...
Overall, it was terrible... and I can't believe I sat through the whole thing...Don Adams comes out looking like Sean Connery compared to the mess that Steve Carrell made with this role.