"Missed it by that much, and by that much, I mean a lot."
Along with ‘Speed Racer,’ ‘Get Smart’ is the movie adaptation of a TV-show that nobody was particularly waiting for. Created by the comedy masters Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series had it charms, but now that the 1960s and the series are both over, it takes a lot of effort to bring the concept up to speed.Unfortunately, the effort seems to have gone into the wrong places.
The old series poked fun at the pretensions of the spy genre by featuring James Bond-like gadgets that worked intermittently and bureaucratic jargon that wound up baffling both the spies and their targets.
Director Peter Segal, who’s responsible for such forgettable fare as the Adam Sandler vehicles “The Longest Yard” and “Anger Management," has abandoned the logic and verbal humor of the series and replaced it with elaborate action scenes, like a plane and car chase through Los Angeles and a parachute jump that doesn’t quite go properly. These segments aren’t particularly funny or thrilling.
But I guess they help justify the $80 million dollar budget.
The new storyline features Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, a talented but overly enthusiastic intelligence analyst for the secret intelligence agency CONTROL, who are fighting to prevent their nemesis KAOS from taking over the planet.
Max longs to be out on in the field, but he’s not as subtle or suave as agents 23 (Dwayne Johnson) or 99 (Anne Hathaway). Unfortunately, Max is pushed into action by the Chief (Alan Arkin) when all the field agents are compromised in the action.
Away from his desk, Max winds up stumbling across a plot by KAOS Agent Siegfried (Terence Stamp) to acquire and use a nuclear weapon. He also manages to bungle his way in and out of trouble. 99 often has to bail him out, but before he can be 86ed, he often stumbles into an unlikely solution.
The story by Tom Astle and Matt Ember has dozens of nods to the old series, but doesn’t stand up well on its own. The plot twists don’t require 007-like investigation to figure out, and it takes more than a few bodily function jokes to bring the characters up to the 21st century.
At least Segal has assembled a cast who can milk as much out of the feeble material as possible. Carell can deliver the same lines that original star Don Adams spouted without resorting to an impersonation. He’s able to play Max’s overconfidence and still make the character likable and sympathetic.
While the leads all handle their roles with aplomb, Segal loads “Get Smart” with a truckload of unnecessary cameos. The first rule of a cameo is that it’s more important to get a laugh than it is for the audience to recognize Bill Murray. If you spend your time wondering how much time and expense it took to fly an actor in for a single joke, it’s safe to say the scene didn’t work.If only Segal, his crew and the studio had spent as much of their resources on the material as they did on effects and tie-ins. I’m sure that “Undercover Orange” Sierra Mist has more wit in one can than can be found in all the reels of the film.