Warner Bros. // 2008 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // November 13th, 2008
Maxwell Smart: "I think it's only fair to warn you, this facility is
surrounded by a highly trained team of 130 black ops snipers."
Siegfried: "I don't believe you."
Maxwell Smart: "Would you believe two dozen Delta Force commandos?"
Maxwell Smart: "How about Chuck Norris with a BB gun?"
Get Smart is what you expect from a big screen re-imagining of the beloved 1965 series -- slicker, louder, full of explosions, lots of stars, and not quite as funny as the original. It's a whole lot of fun, but you can't help but feel nostalgic for the chemistry of Don Adams as Agent 86 and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. Despite any yearnings for the original television show, this one is not bad as far as these big budget Hollywood remakes go. Steve Carell (The Office) and Anne Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain) are perfectly cast as the bumbling secret agent and his sexy more capable sidekick, and you can't help but smile through almost the entire running time. Surprisingly the film plays as much as an action adventure as it does a comedy with amazingly well executed stunts and an explosion every five minutes to go with the constant gags. Would you believe it's like Die Hard starring The 40 Year Old Virgin?
Steve Carell's version of Maxwell Smart starts off as an espionage analyst behind a big desk who listens endlessly to Russian agent chatter from the organization known as KAOS. He yearns to become a field agent, and finally gets his chance once Control headquarters are compromised and agents are too easily identified. So they send the sexy female Agent 99 out with the newly appointed spy fresh from pushing pencils, and they fight their way to uncover the KAOS plan to use a nuclear weapon in the United States. It's a mission that takes them deep undercover in the Soviet Union and on to the streets of Los Angeles in an effort to save the world from utter chaos at the hands of the aptly named KAOS.
In the end, what makes Get Smart work is a healthy respect for the source material married with the commitment to establish new characters for these modern actors. Steve Carell has moments where he pays homage to Don Adams, but we never get an impersonation or the sense the actor is trying to fill the big shoes with the phone in them. He's largely doing his own thing and that works. Anne Hathaway is light enough with the comedy to keep up, and thankfully they do address a large age gap with her costar providing a statement plastic surgery has shaved years off her appearance. They don't have the strong relationship Don Adams and Barbara Feldon had in the series, but given they only have two hours to do what had years to develop otherwise it works. Fans of the original show will enjoy the nods to the original including the elaborate doors in Control headquarters, a new cone of silence that works about as well as the old model, Hymie the robot agent, the iconic shoe phone, and a telephone booth that drops you way too fast.
Get Smart excels in the action scenes, something the 1965 television incarnation never seemed overly concerned with. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson, Southland Tales) is on hand to lend some street cred to the idea of making this an actual stunt spectacular, and everything is executed convincingly enough. The original idea of the television series was to spoof super spy James Bond, and like that long-running franchise this remake ups the ante to be on par with modern Bond flicks. Not only are there nods to a television show, but certain sequences seem to be lifted straight out of the big screen adventures of Britain's 007. We get a skydiving without a parachute sequence, protective lasers that threaten the genitals, beautiful women, and a hulking henchman who is only missing steel teeth or a black bowler to complete the look of a Bond bad guy.
The DVD transfer looks spiffy enough with the right balance of vivid color enhancement and deep black levels. Everything looks great, but there are stretches where enhancement crops up along with some pixilation. It's solid work though not perfect. The sound design fares much better with tons of directional effects which add to the ka-boom sequences which come fast and furious. Extras include an extended version of the movie through a branching interface that requires the viewer to mash buttons (more on that in a second), making of featurettes, and a gag reel. This two disc set also claims it has a digital copy, but it requires you to download it through you computer. The making of featurettes include the traditional interviews and on set footage, and a screen test with the two leads. The next one is a tongue and cheek look at filming in Moscow, Burbank, and Disneyland to serve as Russia. We have a quick funny segment with Carell displaying his linguistic skills he developed for the role. There is also a pretty short gag reel which offers botched takes and people cracking up at their own jokes. Finally we get a look at the direct to DVD feature Get Smart's Bruce And Lloyd Out Of Control.
The box claims we get "62% more funny" with the added and alternate material accessible during the film. What they don't tell you is the film completely stops, the iconic theme blares out at you, and you have to press your "ENTER" button on the remote to get things moving again. It's damn annoying after the third or fourth time, and I suddenly found myself wishing either we had a separate section for these alternate or extended scenes or just had a discrete symbol somewhere on the screen. As it is watching it in this mode is frustrating at worst and slightly irksome at best. It's a nice idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
Get Smart is passable entertainment, describable as a good popcorn flick. Yet it never rises above just being a good spoof of a parody of James Bond. There are moments like when we see Bill Murray doing a cameo in a tree that recall the best of the television series, but they pass all too quickly to get back to the explosions and CGI enhancements. The plot also drags quite a bit, and at one hundred and ten minutes feels padded for such a simple one gag kind of movie.
Fans of the television show and Steve Carell will have the best time with Get Smart, and anybody else will find an amiable spoof of James Bond that's certainly likable enough for at least a rental. This is what summer movies should be all about, likable fluffy fun that never takes itself too seriously. We're dealing with a parody of a parody, and thankfully everybody on board knows that and runs with it. Sure they could have done better, but this "B" grade comedy could have done a lot worse too. It's never as smart as it could be, but it does have enough goofy charm to make you smile as it rolls by.
Would you believe guilty of breaking all box office historical records and being the funniest movie ever made? How about guilty of being one of the top grossing films of 2008? All right, how about a nice enough reimagining starring a television comic and a film starlet who did this for big budget exposure? It's a film that "missed it by that much," but made you laugh along the way.
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Interactive Extended Version with Alternate Takes
* Behind the Scenes Featurette
* "On Location in Moscow?"
* Language Lessons with Steve Carell
* Gag Reel
* Sneak Peek at Direct to DVD Feature Film
* Cinema Verdict Review