"Get Smart" not nearly smart enough

Wed Jun 18, 2008 1:50am EDT
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Get Smart

By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Get Smart" the movie has precious little to do with "Get Smart" the iconic TV series from the 1960s -- but then again, the movie has precious little to do with screen comedy, either.

This is a slapdash effort whose producers threw money and stunts onscreen instead of the satirical gags and one-liners that made the old spy spoof so memorable.

It's hard to see how this lame puppy will gain any boxoffice traction other than by waving the banner of star Steve Carell opening weekend. His younger fans, who wouldn't know "Get Smart" from "I Spy," might laugh at the overblown action swirling around their poker-faced hero, but are more likely to advise friends to wait for the DVD.

The film opens in Washington, D.C., where satirical remnants of the old TV series are visible -- like Carell's agent Maxwell Smart taking a musical march down a corridor of opening and closing sliding doors only to disappear down a telephone booth into the super-secret headquarters of his spy agency, CONTROL. The film then expands into a more James Bond second act set in and around Moscow and winds up in a stunt-laden finale in downtown Los Angeles.

The overriding factor here is that the filmmakers -- this would include ham-fisted director Peter Segal and the punchless writing team of Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember -- don't know what the joke is. Is this a spoof of an old TV series? Is this a spoof of Ian Fleming? Is this a Carell vehicle? No one seems to know, as familiar lines crop up in the wrong places and the timing of gags, so indelibly rendered in the series, misfires on nearly every occasion.

To his credit, Carell doesn't attempt to imitate the late Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart. Carell's own brand of flustered dignity and disguised insecurity plays well enough. Carell's Max is less an inept spy who bumbles his way to success than an analyst-wonk out of his depth in the field.

Max's boss, CONTROL's Chief, is played by Alan Arkin, who manages to retain his dignity, while Max's co-agent and love interest, Agent 99, is Anne Hathaway, who manages to retain her beauty. She's a martial-arts babe rather than an adoring co-worker, as Barbara Feldon originally played the role, but that probably suits the times.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell from the movie "Get Smart" pose for a portrait in Los Angeles May 30, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>