Get Smart

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Directed by: Peter Segal

Starring:
Steve Carell - Maxwell Smart / Agent 86
Anne Hathaway - Agent 99
Dwayne Johnson - Agent 23
Alan Arkin - The Chief
Terrence Stamp - Ziegfried


Get Smart - Poster

With just a better script and a slightly more competent director, Get Smart could've have been great. It's still good, but the film adaptation of such a classic television series deserves a great film. Thankfully, with a strong cast in place led by Steve Carell perfectly-inhabiting the role of blundering spy Maxwell Smart, the film doesn't disgrace its honorable ancestor.

Maxwell Smart is an analyst for the covert-ops group CONTROL, monitoring chatter of bad guys KAOS, writing up overly-detailed reports on their chatter, and desperately wanting to become a field agent. When CONTROL is randomly attacked, Smart is elevated to field agent status even though just ten minutes earlier, The Chief (Alan Arkin having loads of fun) says that he's too valuable as an analyst. Smart's promotion would make sense except once he's out in the field, CONTROL is back up and running and all the field agents (the main ones played Dwayne Johnson, David Koechner, and Terry Crews) are stuck at HQ for a never-explained reason. It's a plot-hole so large you would expect that someone would make a joke out of it but instead it just sits there and festers.

Thankfully, we're not left baffled at HQ for too long as we're off seeing the adventures of Smart and the sexy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). The film wisely notes the age difference (the 43-year-old Carell paired with the 25-year-old Hathaway) and ends up working it into their dynamic. However, such an explanation is somewhat unnecessary since you'll be too focused on Carell and Hathaway's wonderful chemistry and interplay to be bothered by the age difference.

But the reason this film is a success is Carell. He's channeling the role's originator, Don Adams, while still making it his own. The film gives great homage to the show but not to the point where those that never saw it will feel left out of the fun. Carell's Smart has that necessary bravado, buffoonery, and all-around charm to make him the perfect choice for the role we all knew he would be.

The strange choice is director Peter Segal, who is more known for comedy than for action and there's a lot of action in Get Smart. Segal has a strong sense of comic timing but his set pieces are muddled and generic. There's more life in an improv dance competition between Smart and 99 than there is when they're outrunning explosions.

Back when I interviewed Carell for Dan in Real Life, he described Get Smart as a comedic Bourne Identity. Smart does a pretty great job with the comedy, but still needs work in matching the pacing, story, and direction of the Bourne films.

Words by
Matt Goldberg
6.16.08


Rating: 7.9 out of 10