Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: June 20, 2008
Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin
By Sean Chavel
"Get Smart" is a would-be summer blockbuster that wastes the talents of Steve Carell. This could be his worst movie. After looking through his list of credits, it must be decided this is his worst movie. “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Little Miss Sunshine” star is allowing his comic appeal to flounder, relying on dunce-head shtick to sell a performance. But the material itself is slapdash – neither thrilling nor funny. Maybe somebody remembers the original television series this is based on, that ran from 1965-70. Having never seen it, I understand that it strays from the TV show anyway.
Maxwell Smart (Carell) is a bumbling secret agent whose casual impassivity makes him look smarter and more suave than he actually is. He works for the U.S. spy agency CONTROL under the Chief (Alan Arkin). Agent 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is the star field agent that Smart idolizes. But Smart, in his first assignment, will be paired with the beautiful and limber Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). She’s got a case of the quarrels. This means that at every opportunity she quarrels with Smart because he’s incompetent and unworthy of her partnership. The dialogue, be aware, is less than fresh. Nothing sparks of originality in this tone-deaf dud.
After the agency headquarters is hit by an explosion, CONTROL gets in pursuit of evil KAOS masterminds led by Terence Stamp and Ken Davitian. The ill-conceived plot is so generic it’s hard to know what the hell any of it is about. It’s all very substandard spy stuff that takes Smart and Agent 99 to Russia which leads to what feels like a pointless infiltration of KAOS terrorists. To Russia and to U.S. return, but why and who cares?
Within this unwieldy plot is the attempt to wheedle out jokes of Smart’s inaptitude (he’s a better analyst than he is a James Bond-like hero). The other half of the time the movie attempts humor with those funny gadgets such as the Swiss Army knife that’s really a compact flame-thrower. The miniature bow and arrow that’s hard to aim is the movie’s one funny idea. Smart falling out of a plane without a parachute is another potential funny idea until it turns into cartoon ridiculousness.
But from the opening credits, where our buffoon protagonist goes through a series of unnecessary secret doors to enter headquarters, the movie’s booming TV theme music remix soundtrack drones out any of the comedy. Laughs are diluted by noise. What we have here is the presentation of Smart, a buffoon in a suit, and a bunch of other actors stripped of their charisma. Carell and Hathaway in particular needed a punchier script, and indeed, a better director. Peter Segal (“The Longest Yard,” Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”) is behind the camera and his method of pacing is discordant.