Saturday, November 8, 2008

DVD Review: "Get Smart"

When I was a kid, I loved "Get Smart," the Cold War spy satire created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Don Adams Was the embodiment of ineptitude as Maxwell Smart, a bumbling agent for CONTROL, the government agency that fought against the nefarious group KAOS. Barbara Feldon played Agent 99, Max's unnamed partner both on and off the job. 1980 saw an exceptionally lame movie version of the show, called The Nude Bomb. And bomb it did. Earlier this year, the characters were resurrected for an update starring Steve Carell ("The Office;" The 40 Year-Old Virgin), Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) and former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson (The Scorpion King).
Since this is a re-boot of sorts, the story concerns Max's rise from Intelligence Analyst to Field Operative. Carell's Smart is a sincere guy who wants to prove he has what takes, and after seven previous attempts, finally manages to pass his field test. But CONTROL's Chief (Carell's Little Miss Sunshine co-star Alan Arkin) won't promote him because he's too good an analyst. Even his idol and mentor, Agent 23 (Johnson), can't help him move up. When KAOS attacks CONTROL headquarters and wipes out many of their field operatives, Max is finally called into service and named "Agent 86." Teamed up with Agent 99 (Hathaway), Max is sent to Moscow to uncover the whereabouts of yellow cake uranium that KAOS has been stealing for use by unfriendly governments. The story takes Max and 99 from D.C. to Russia to L.A. (where the President - James Caan - is attending a concert in his honor). Along the way, Max encounters evil KAOS agent Siegfried (Terrance Stamp) and his rotund henchman, Shtarker (Borat's Ken Davitian).
While not exactly a laugh-a-minute riot, Get Smart certainly has its moments, including a very funny dance-off and some truly outrageous action sequences which had me saying "As if!" at least a dozen times. Carell is perfectly cast as the over-confident (if inexperienced) Max and Hathaway (well on her way to being a major star) balances sexy, smart and dangerous as 99. Johnson isn't really given much to do here, but his transition from his wrestling persona "The Rock," into a family-friendly movie star is well underway. Arkin is fine as the aging but still vital Chief and supporting bits from Masi Oka (NBC's "Heroes"), David Koechner (Anchorman) and Nate Torrence all lend just the right amount of silliness. And a cameo from reliable Patrick Warburton ("Seinfeld;" "Family Guy") as robotic agent Hymie sets up both the recent Direct-To-DVD tie-in movie (Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of CONTROL) and the announced sequel, Get Smarter. The script by Tom Astle and Matt Ember is as much an homage to the original series as it is an update, and director Peter Segal (Anger Management; Tommyboy) manages to keep things moving along nicely.
While hardly the funniest film ever made (or even of this year), Get Smart is certainly among the better classic TV-inspired movies of late. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars out of Four)

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