- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
et Smart” is not a great movie – heck, it’s not even a good movie – but damn it, it’s trying to be, and that raw enthusiasm is downright intoxicating. There are smarts within the silliness, but for this kind of movie, smart is clearly the supporting actor to silly. It’s the right approach given the subject matter, but in the rare moments where they deliver a really funny or sly joke, it only serves to make the really silly jokes that much more irritating. Good thing they had an extremely likeable guy delivering the silly.
Steve Carell is Maxwell Smart, a talented – but overly thorough – analyst for the top-secret government agency CONTROL. Max dreams of being a field agent, but the agency chief (Alan Arkin) values his skills too much as an analyst to promote him. When a security breach compromises the identities of CONTROL’s agents, the Chief has no choice but to bench all-star Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) and put Max into the field, teaming him up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) on a mission to collect intel on a weapons dealer named Siegfried (Terence Stamp). Agent 99, naturally, wants nothing to do with someone with no experience, but Max eventually wins her over with his “unconventional but effective” methods.
Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember get the screenplay credit, but there are too many Michael Scottisms for Carell to not have been involved in some form. This isn’t to say that Carell’s interpretation of Max is as an incompetent boob (though there is some of that), but rather that Max, like Michael, is in over his head. Thankfully, Max is much smarter than Michael, and spends more time succeeding because of his abilities rather than in spite of them.
Whatever the box office performance turns out to be for “Get Smart,” the casting director should get a big, fat bonus. The movie wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable without Carell in the lead role, but even he can’t compete with Arkin, who steals the movie from everyone. Hathaway may seem an odd choice on paper for Agent 99, but the script throws her, and us, a nifty twist, and Hathaway handles both the tough and the sexy aspects of the role with aplomb. Johnson, meanwhile, may one day become a decent actor, but he’s not quite there yet, likeable though he may be. Fans of standup comedy, though, will love the Homeland Security roundtable scene, and the late appearance by robotic agent Hymie is inspired.
“Get Smart” is rather maddening in the end. A better movie was within reach, but in the interest of cramming as many jokes in the movie as possible, the movie is never allowed to develop any natural rhythm. The stage is clearly set for a sequel, but God help them if they stuff that movie with even more clutter than they stuffed into this one.
Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Review:
Sometimes, it’s not what you give to the consumer, but how you give it to them. Take the two-disc edition of “Get Smart,” for example. It features an extra 20-plus minutes of jokes and alternate takes that were not in the theatrical cut. The problem is that you have to watch them within the movie in order to see them, which means it will take two hours and ten minutes to watch 20 minutes’ worth of new footage. That would be, well, not smart. Disc two consists of the standard featurettes on making the movie, shooting in Moscow’s Red Square, a gag reel, Steve Carell pretending to speak French, German and Italian, and a preview for the “Get Smart” side movie, “Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control.”