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Get Smart
An unnecessary adaptation of a comedy classic.
Get Smart
Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway Star in "Get Smart".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $43,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

January 28th, 2008: Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is on a mission to thwart the latest plot for world domination by the evil crime syndicate known as KAOS. When the headquarters of U.S. spy agency Control is attacked and the identities of its agents compromised, the Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to promote his ever-eager analyst Maxwell Smart, who has always dreamt of working in the field alongside stalwart superstar Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson). Smart is partnered instead with the lovely-but-lethal veteran Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). Given little field experience and even less time, Smart—armed with nothing but a few spy-tech gadgets and his unbridled enthusiasm—must thwart the doomsday plans of KAOS head Siegfried (Terance Stamp).

What to Expect: Hollywood keeps trying to find the right formula for adapting old shows into movies. Films like Scooby Doo and Bewitched have tried to stick very close to the themes of the original series and have failed miserably in the process. Now Warner Bros is trying the opposite, when it brings the hit 60's spy comedy Get Smart to the big screen. Instead of keeping the similar satirical humor and the same persona of the characters, Warners has drastically changed both in hopes of morphing the show into something new and modern. It seems that although they would never admit it, the studio did not mind exchanging a few loyal die-hard fans for new younger ones. Unfortunately, due to an extremely poor script and shabby characters, this movie will only succeed in upsetting those old fans.

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Get Smart was the brainchild of comedic legends Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It was a comedy that starred Don Adams as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart, code name Agent 86. He worked for the super secret CONTROL agency whose job was to stop the villainous KAOS (both COTROL and KAOS are supposed to be acronyms that stand for nothing). The show always pinned 86 and his smart and sexy partner Agent 99 (she never actually had a name, even when the two were married) against Siegfried, KAOS's VP of Relations and Terror. Agent 86 would always unravel the plan and save the day through some dumb luck or miscalculation on the part of KAOS. The show constantly poked fun at the bureaucracy of both agencies and the spy technology like the iconic shoe phone and the ever malfunctioning Cone of Silence. There were always a lot of extremely funny characters no matter how small. During its five seasons, the series won seven Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes, eventually going into syndication, creating many new loyal fans.

Warner Bros has owned the rights to the show for years but could never put it together until they hired Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, Anger Management) to direct and head the project. Segal wanted to make the movie for the 25 and under crowd, which in his opinion required a lot of changes. He described it as "silly Cold War comedy that needs serious updating" and had even harsher criticism for the Agent 99 character; He felt that she was too weak, a standard 60's "stand behind your man woman." I have to really disagree with his assessment. 99 was probably the smartest and strongest female character on TV at the time, but I guess Segal did not see it that way. Thus, Segal and his team of writers decided to do the Hollywood "it" thing and reboot the story much like Superman Returns and Batman Begins did. They ignored the fact that one of the funny things of the show was that you never knew how such a clumsy idiot became an agent, what the many acronyms used stood for, or the real names of the many agents we met in every episode. Segal decided to fill these holes in his reincarnation.

The story picks up with Maxwell Smart working at CONTROL as an analyst. He constantly dreams of becoming a field agent idealizing Agent 23, who is like the James Bond of the organization. Unfortunately, Smart never realized his dream, because he was too fat. Now he has lost the weight and passed the field exam, but the Chief wants to keep him as an analyst, claiming that he is just too good at his job. Smart finally gets his chance when KAOS discovers the identities of all of CONTROL's field agents and eliminates them. As a result, Smart gets promoted to field agent status and is partnered with Agent 99 who survived the purge, due some recent plastic surgery. 99 is a good, veteran agent trained in martial arts and weapons handling. She is upset that she is teamed with a rookie, and constantly talks down to Smart, but the two must work together to stop KAOS's latest plot; KAOS has acquired twenty nuclear bombs and threatens to sell them to the world's dictators if the US does not pay them. Smart and 99 parachute into Italy where they believe the weapons are. However, they are misled and Smart accidentally blows up a bakery. The Chief becomes convinced that Smart is a double agent and has him jailed. Smart then breaks out and convinces his former analyst co-workers to help him. They discover that KAOS intends to detonate a bomb in LA and kill the president of the US in the process (not to be confused with 24 season 2). Now Smart and Agent 99 who have developed a working and sexual chemistry must find the bomb and stop KAOS before it is too late.

Well I see plenty of problems with the script and the movie already. First of all, Maxwell Smart was always oblivious to his shortcomings and believed he is the greatest agent to ever live. In the movie he is extremely insecure, idolizes another agent and often falls back on the textbooks for guidance. Segal definitely missed the comic value of Smart's cockiness. Secondly, they made 99 too good of a fighter and way too condescending to Smart, making her very unlikable and sort of unbelievable. I understand Segal's gripe about the character being too weak in the original, but I think he overcompensated way too much. Another problem is the plot itself. It is way too serious and too similar to 24 and Johnny English. One of the funniest parts of the show was how silly some of KAOS's plans were and if you are going to deviate from the original ideas at least do not copy another show. All these problems could have been avoided had the show's creators been consulted early on in pre-production. Unfortunately, Warners executives decided to distance themselves from the show as much as possible. They went so far as too file a law suit to strip Mel Brooks and Buck Henry of writing credits and issued a legal injunction to prevent anyone involved in the movie from communicating with the duo. These legal maneuvers created a huge public backlash against the film, causing the studio to back off, dropping the suit and hiring Brooks and Henry as consultants for the movie. But it was too late. The script had already been finalized and the movie was already one week into shooting by the time the two arrived on set.

Finally, the biggest problem with this movie is the casting of the two leading roles of Smart and 99. Steve Carrel was cast at Smart, even though his last two movies, Dan in Real Life and Evan Almighty, bombed at the theaters. In addition, Carell has never handled a gun in his life, but will take the lead in a movie which is loaded with action and gunplay. Don Adams, who was the original Maxwell Smart, served in the Marines during WWII, thus had some weapons training and athletic ability. However, Carell's casting does have some positives; he is a huge fan of the show and even rewrote some of the script to be more in tune with the original series. Plus he bares a slight resemblance to Don Adams, making it easier for fans to accept him in the role. The other terrible casting was that of Anne Hathaway as 99. Hathaway looks to be at least twenty years younger than Carell, making their sexual relationship very awkward. Segal did try to smooth this over in the movie by saying that she is a lot older, but looks so young because of her plastic surgery. Another problem with Hathaway is that like Carell, she has never done an action movie. Although, she does look very athletic and I will be interested to see how she fares.

Perhaps I am being a little too harsh on Segal and company, because they did do some good things with this movie as well. First, he kept some of the goofy gadgets that made Get Smart so memorable. This posed as a challenge, since 60's technology would be out of place in modern times. However, Segal managed to write some of the more popular ones like the shoe phone into the script in a plausible manner. He also did a relatively good job casting some of the supporting actors. He brought back Terence Stamp as Siegfried, the same character Stamp played on the original show. Then Segal cast Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Smart's hero, Agent 23. The Rock has excellent screen presence and his good physique will help further reinforce Smart's insecurity with his own body. Finally, I saved the best two for last. Bill Murray will have a cameo appearance as Agent 13, the character who hides in lockers and mailboxes. Adding Murray to the cast is a great movie, since the comedian can be brilliant, especially in small doses. The other great part belongs to Ken Davitian, who became an instant fan favorite as Borat's sidekick. Early screenings of the new movie indicate that he is extremely funny in this one as well. These two should provide some classic moments for an otherwise lackluster movie.

In Conclusion: Get Smart proves once again that sometimes you should leave well enough alone. Warner Bros took a hilarious 1960's spy show and decided to modernize it in their vision. The result is a movie without an identity. It seems that instead of a goofy satire, they created an action-romance-comedy. The storyline resembles a bad mix of Johnny English and 24, while the clever, deep and clean jokes that made the original show such a hit have been replaced by shallow, raunchy ones. The people who created this movie are convinced that younger audiences just want to see gross out humor, but they are wrong. Bad humor is bad humor, no matter how old your audience is. Thus, I recommend you skip Get Smart and if you are really curious, then you can wait for the straight to DVD spin-off that is being released around the same time.

Similar Titles: Johnny English, I Spy, Spies Like Us
June 20th, 2008 (wide)
November 4th, 2008 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

Peter Segal

Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Terence Stamp, Alan Arkin, Ken Davitian, Masi Oka, Nate Torrence, David Koechner, Terry Crews, Craig Susser, James Caan, Bill Murray

Total: 81 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Comedy, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language.






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