Get Smart
I’ve had this dream SO many times. I wonder what it means.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/20/2008
Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne “I Don’t Call Myself The Rock Anymore” Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Dalip “The Great Khali” Singh

Considering director Peter Segal was at the helm for “The Longest Yard” , “Anger Management” and “The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”, I was surprisingly okay with “Get Smart”.

Based on the 60′s TV show of the same name, this update sees Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and if anyone should be filling the shoes of the late Don Adams, it’s Carell. His deadpan delivery style and wry sense of comic timing fit so well with the character and while it’s pretty much the same character we’ve seen from Carell ever since his start on “The Daily Show”, I’m not tired of it yet.

Sadly, with Don Adams no longer around, the filmmakers couldn’t work in a cameo for him but it was nice to see a quick glimpse of Bernie Kopell, who played the villain Siegfried in the original TV series. Little touches like that and the inclusion of some of the classic Get Smart iconography helped to marry the old with the new in a heartfelt way.

Speaking of heartfelt, casting Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 was pretty much like Hollywood saying “Sorry for all those terrible remakes and sequel, Ian. Here’s another film with Anne Hathaway as a token of our apologies”. Let’s put aside, for now, that she’s gorgeous and probably everything I’d ever want in a woman but could never handle. She was also really great for the part.

Agent 99 is a top-notch agent – Hathaway prepared for her role well and sold me on her ability to physically overpower the typical thugs a film like this contains. But aside from the physicality, her emotional presence made the corny, sentimental stuff work without being too saccarine or schmaltzy. As implausible as a romance between Carell and Hathaway might appear, they do cover the age gap issue (in context within the Get Smart universe) and she has such a warm, inviting presence that when mixed with Carell’s lovable goofiness, it stays away from becoming a complete annoyance.

The inclusion of The Rock (or as he prefers to be credited these days, Dwayne Johnson) was a nice touch as well. He’s obviously got the physical ability to be a super agent (#23 to be exact) and his comedic chops are excellent. Say what you want about the WWE, their ability to create characters is superb and it was clear soon into The Rock’s wrestling career that his charisma and showmanship would take him places.

Going along with the casting triumphs, there’s a figurative gold mine of comedic talent supporting the story and it is their inclusion that make “Get Smart” relevant for today’s audiences and accesible to those who aren’t lifelong fans of the show. Alan Arkin, Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, David Koechner, Terry Crews, Bill Murray, Patrick Warburton and James Caan as a George W. Bush-esque President all stamp their mark on the film to some degree (I wanted more Bill Murray) and turn a charming remake into a pleasant adventure. (Casting former NFL badass Bill Romanowski as a violent air marshall was also an inspired choice.)

For the main villains of the film, Ken Davitian is funny as a henchman but it’s the wonderful campiness of the excellent Terence Stamp and the lovable evil giant (7’2″ 387lbs. WWE wrestler) Dalip Singh that make it fun to see Max and Agent 99 galivanting around the world to stop the nefarious scheme of the crime syndicate, KAOS.

I also appreciated that the creators of the TV show, Buck Henry and Mel Brooks were given consultant credits. Seeing the TV series and now the feature film, it has their comedic stylings all over it and it’s yet another reason I was able to enjoy my time in the theater.

Now that’s not to say that everything was coming up roses. Due to its campy and clean universe, often the humor and storyline is so predictable I’m not sure I shouldn’t get a writing credit. But in regards to such a “clean” world that Maxwell Smart is rooted in, I was surprised at how much language was in the film. I realize it’s PG-13 so between a few bad words, some mild violence and a middle finger, I see where the rating came from. But because of how wholesome the original series is and how bland the feature film’s universe is, I don’t see why they didn’t drop some of the potty language and just go with a more family-friendly PG film. For once, I actually would prefer a less “edgy” film.

Also, the end sequence is about as believable as the one in “Twister” (you know, where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt survive a massive twister by strapping themselves to some pipes in a barn that gets ripped apart all around them … one stray nail should have killed them). Take what you will from that.

All in all, I did enjoy “Get Smart” and will give it a 3 out of 5. That doesn’t mean I would see this before most of the other summer tentpole films but if you’re a fan of the series, Steve Carell or Anne Hathaway, you’ll enjoy this one and get a few good natured chuckles out of it.

And since I brought up “Twister”, let me just say, “Jan de Bont!” Man, that’s fun.