Get Smart is the latest in the endless chain of sitcoms, regardless of quality, getting the big screen treatment by Hollywood. I fondly remember watching the show on TV as a kid and being amused by the slapstick humor and sheer stupidity of Maxwell Smart, played to perfection by Don Adams. Though these adaptations usually produce horrific results, Get Smart is a cut above thanks to some fun performances and preposterously entertaining action.
Maxwell Smart (Carell) is the best analyst there is at CONTROL, a super secret government spy agency. Smart’s multi-hundred page reports put the rest of the staff to sleep, but he dreams of some day becoming a full agent. When a security breach leaves the identities of the CONTROL agent compromised, the Chief (Arkin) has no choice but to promote Maxwell and pair him with Agent 99 (Hathaway) in an effort to thwart a plot for world domination by the evil KAOS organization.
Get Smart takes advantage of the fact that it’s hardly dealing with sacred material. The characters are there, but it’s a different day and age. Screenwriters Tom Astle and Matt Ember have ported the material and thrown everything they can think of at us. The film takes a Naked Gun-like approach to its ridiculousness, which results in a lot of hit-and-miss situations. The film gets off to a sluggish start but eventually just lets Carell run away with it. Director Peter Segal, who has previously worked the comedy circuit almost exclusively, delivers a delightfully over-the-top closing action sequence that delivers considering this is primarily comedic material.
Steve Carell is perfectly cast as Maxwell Smart, even it means he is still essentially portraying Michael Scott from The Office. Carell is a master of dry humor, and this enables him to take dialogue that would otherwise miss (and make no mistake about it, the film has plenty of bits that miss) and make them hit. Anne Hathaway makes for a serviceable sidekick and foil for Carell. Give major credit to Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp for doing anything other than phoning in their performances, as they treat the material perfectly. In fact, Arkin may have the best line in the entire film.
Get Smart delivers what’s promised, and that’s all we really ask for during these summer months. In terms of the genre it’s definitely one of the better TV-to-film adaptations to come along over the past few years, thanks in large part to Carell and his delivery. Those looking for love for the source material will be disappointed, but as a goofy summer diversion, it gets the job done.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language.
Theatrical Release: June 20, 2008
Directed by: Peter Segal
Written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember. Characters by Mel Brooks & Buck Henry.
Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Terry Crews