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GET SMART (2008) *** movie review by COOP

Posted on June 26th, 2008
Posted on June 26th, 2008

I don’t remember liking the TV show at all as a kid. I only saw reruns, but the show seemed dated even in the 1970’s. I never saw the “Get Smart” film “The Nude Bomb,” and I don’t care to. Let’s forget the 1995 “Get Smart” series starring Andy Dick ever existed.

I kind of liked this new one. Steve Carell makes a much more dignified and less annoying Maxwell Smart than Don Adams. He starts off the film as the top analyst for the fictional agency “CONTROL,” with dreams of being a field agent. He passes the field agent test (after the 8th try) with flying colors only to have his Chief (Alan Arkin) disappoint him. Apparently Maxwell is the best analyst in the agency and the Chief can’t spare his talents. When CONTROL gets attacked by the terrorist organization “KAOS,” and loses most of their agents, Max gets a 9th chance to prove he has what it takes to be a secret agent. Aided by his new partner, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and the superspy, Agent 23 (The Rock/Dwayne Johnson), Max has to stop KAOS mastermind, Siegfried (Terrance Stamp), from blowing up Los Angeles.

Everything the film sets up pays off in a humorous way. For instance, we learn Smart failed his last eight attempts at the field test because of morbid obesity. This sets up a sympathetic scene where the undercover Smart chooses an obese dance partner at a formal affair because he can relate to her. He manages to make her look graceful on the dance floor, impressing Agent 99 and winning over the audience. There are a few gross-out scenes but usually the humor stays above the potty level. The cast/crew pulled off some decent action scenes as well. Even Alan Arkin had some cheer-worthy heroic moments, especially when he loses his temper with jerk/authority figures and punches them out.

Although it’s a simple setup for a preposterous plot, the film goes for a more swashbuckling approach to the spy spoof. Maxwell Smart is still a buffoon but a buffoon with impressive memorization and analysis skills. Although he’s a klutz, all his years of training for the field agent exam paid off: He can handle himself with firearms and combat when the action gets intense. The humor comes from the clever script and the reliably funny delivery of Carell. Another plus is the impressive supporting cast of veteran comedians like Arkin, Terry Crews and David Koechner. Masi Oka (of “Heroes” fame) had a couple of funny parts as a tech geek but his partner, Nate Torrance stole the scenes out from under him with his facial mugging and “faint on cue” scenes. Anne Hathaway plays against type and pulls off a great performance as a serious superspy thrust into a silly situation.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continues to amaze me with his range and talent. As Agent 23, he plays both straight and funny all in the same scene. I’ll forgive him for annoying bombs like “Doom” and the abysmal and baffling “Southland Tales,” but I hope he starts choosing some serious roles or non-cartoony action flicks. I like his comedic abilities but with too many goofy comedies on his plate, I’m afraid he’ll pull an Arnold and star in “Junior 2: This Time He’s Pregnant with Twins!” or “Elementary School Cop: Graduation Day.” (NOTE TO THE ROCK: These are BAD ideas, Dwayne.
I’m hearing rumors that you dress up in a tutu and play “The Tooth Fairy” in your next film. Bail out now while you still have our respect!)

My favorite performance came from the brilliant Terrence Stamp who is no stranger to playing the villain. His character’s exasperation at the incompetence of his henchmen results in Stamp delivering some uproarious straight-faced insults. The scene where he suffers through an endless automated message system (you know the kind) to deliver his nuclear threat to the Vice President had me roaring in the aisles. I miss seeing him in roles like General Zod in “Superman II” and his underrated-yet-Oscar-worthy turn as ex-con Wilson in “The Limey.” Because of these performances, I give him all the credit in the world despite his otherwise disappointing filmography. Somebody please cast him in some serious A-list roles. That’s right, Hollywood, I’m talking to you.

The awkward Carrell continues to deliver consistent laughs. I preferred him in more adult comedies like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” but a comedy actor’s gotta eat. Let’s hope he doesn’t squander his good fortune by choosing increasingly silly roles or blow it like Jim Carrey and try to go dramatic.

File this under “S” for “Stupid Fun.” I don’t care for a sequel to this, but I didn’t mind sitting through “Get Smart.” If you’re looking for some light chuckles and don’t want to take a chance on “The Love Guru,” give this one a shot. It’s not the funniest comedy of the year, but I have a feeling you could do a lot worse.

3 out of 5

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