Get Smart

a film by Peter Segal

I must admit to having quite low expectations going into Get Smart, which I suppose means I wasn't all that disappointed coming out. Now don't get me wrong, I love Steve Carell and his so-dry-almost-tumbleweed-dry comic style (the US version of "The Office" just would not be what it is if not for Carell) and the original series was one of my childhood favourites (and watching it again on TV Land in recent years only boosted that puppy love) and I could watch Anne Hathaway with her legs that go all the way up to Heaven - no matter what she was doing - just about all day long, but knowing Hollywood the way we all know Hollywood, it was with the lowest of expectations that I walked into that screening and waited for the lights to go down and the screen to light up. And again, I was not disappointed for it was just as dreadfully uninvigorating, pedestrian-addled and blah blah bland as I imagined it would be.

Missing it by much more than "that much", Peter Segal and his team of studio howler monkeys, took what was essentially one of the smartest written situation comedies of the ages (the original James Bond spoof was written with such panache and was waaaaay ahead of its time) and dumbed it down for modern audiences fed on the stale diet of reality TV, US Weekly and Judd Apatow rom-coms. Carell, deadpanny as he wants to be and perfectly cast as CONTROL Agent Maxwell Smart, and Hathaway as the ubiquitous sixties mod bod Agent 99 (and quite the underrated actress) are both good at what very little they have to work with, as are Alan Arkin as the Chief and even Dwayne Johnson, this time altogether dropping the Rock from his monicker (the John Cougar Mellencamp of motion pictures) has some rather funny moments, and that theme music is always fun to hear, but the film falls so flat so often that even a few well-deserved jabs at the president (played here by an appropriately bumfuzzled James Caan) cannot even pull this one's proverbial ass out of the friendly fire of franchise-in-waiting.

Both kidding and precognition aside though, all this does come as quite the disappointment after all. The flaws are numurous and they are numb-inducing. Gone is the savvy political satire of the original, only to be replaced by one of the (purposely?) unfunniest screenplays to ever grace a comic motion picture. Watching this new Get Smart with all its thematic dalliances - Carrell's Agent 86, though still the bumbling fool, is inexplicably quite the action hero at times as well (sort of a Jason Bourne for the middle aged dweeb set) and the cold war satire of the original is inevitably gone with the post 9/11 wind - one can only be saddened, but not surprised by any means, by all the missed opportunities throughout. Carell should shine here, and though he does toss off quite a few wry bon mots throughout, due to such the aforementioned lackluster script (are show creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry laughing all the way to the bank?) and the idea that we need less laughter and more explosions and silly car chases and the fact that the movie's target audience probably wouldn't know a Nudnik Shpilkes from ahe never gets the opportunity to do so. Sorry 'bout that Chief. [06/22/08]