Dubby’s dvdiscussion: Smart get smarter


Here are two asides to you. The big screen is mining every conceivable source for ideas for movies. Comic books, old movies, short stories, novels, plays... you name it; the latest rage is television where old shows are lifted and given the make-over required to make a hit move. The Dark Knight is one example. (And here is second aside) — Hollywood has taken spoofs and made new spoofs with them. So what you got it is spoofs on spoofs.

Get Smart is based on a Mel Brooks television series from the 60’s with Steve Carell playing a super spy helped by Anne Hathaway against Terence Stamp and Ken Davitian (from Borat). This time, however, funny the actors make all the derring-do and wild on-screen antics totally believable.

Says critic AT Hurley, “Get Smart brings plenty of elements of the original series and spins it freshly into the new world of bad guys in the 21st century. Steve Carell is perfectly cast as the bumbling Maxwell Smart — but in a slick improvement on the TV show, Smart isn’t really hapless — though he has a bit of a self-esteem problem (all around his apartment are sticky notes with exhortations like ‘You can DO it!’). Carell’s Maxwell Smart is a sharp techie researcher at the uber-secret crime-battling agency, CONTROL, who’s just a little out of his element out in the field. As his data-crunching sidekick Bruce (Masi Oka of Heroes) says,

“We’re the ones guarding democracy!”, aghast that Max would want to be an agent.

But Max longs for the action enjoyed by the likes of Agent 23 (a godlike Dwayne Johnson), with glamorous deployments around the world. When he finally gets his dream assignment — as the newly minted Agent 86 — he’s paired up with the slick and experienced Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who provides great lines, not to mention some interesting chemistry, while she continually saves Max from harm’s way. The cast is terrific, with memorable appearances

by Alan Arkin as the Chief, Terrence Stamp as the head of the uber-evil KAOS, and Bill Murray

as a (literally) put-out-to-pasture agent whose spy post is inside a tree (‘really great, old-school stuff’ he calls his assignment). And there’s plenty of action, explosions, and creative shootouts with the bad guys (highlight: a freefall from a plane, with two people and just two parachutes). But it’s Carell and his combination of insecure yearning and deadpan delivery that make Get Smart as, well, smart as it is. When Max learns he’s finally been promoted to agent, he slips into the Cone of Silence, which unfortunately is malfunctioning. “I’m so happy!” he yells, as his colleagues sit nearby hearing the whole thing. Discovering that, he purses his lips and says, “Well, that’s a sucker-punch to the gonads.”

For a concluding aside over to Mel Valentin, “For their action-first, comedy-second adaptation of the TV series, Peter Segal and his screenwriters borrowed plot points and characters from other spy/action films, including the henchman character played by Richard Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, the ‘loose nukes’ idea from The Sum of All Fears, and a note-for-note set piece lifted from Mrs and Mrs Smith. Paying homage or referencing other genre films isn’t a problem, but when the basic premise of a bumbling field agent gives way to straight action minus the physical comedy and the verbal humor, then it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook Get Smart’s repeated, illogical tonal shifts (for example, Smart goes from incompetent to hyper-competent, often in the same scene) while we wait for the next joke or callout to the TV series.”