Retro Review: Get Smart

[This was my second movie review that I ever wrote.  Looking back, I think I was a little too positive towards the movie, but, overall, I still agree with my assessment.  It’s interesting to see my writing style somewhat mature (or at least get more concise) as time goes on.]

If anyone has reason to doubt that Steve Carrell is one of America’s most popular comedians, think again. The man has his own TV show (a hugely popular one, I might add), and in the last three years has probably starred in more movies than I can count. Attaching his name to a movie virtually guarantees it at least some income (even if it is just a little – sorry, Evan Almighty). As such, it’s little surprise to see another comedy coming from the popular star. What’s surprising about this movie is the fact that it is actually more than a comedy – Carrell gets to pull off a fair amount of action as well. But does Carrell’s acting prowess make this summer flick worth seeing?

What most of America’s younger generation doesn’t seem to know is that Get Smart was actually a popular TV show in the late 60’s. Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86) was portrayed in the show by the late Don Adams. Clever, witty, but still very silly, the show was one of the better ones to come from the time period. I know this because my Dad is a huge fan of the old TV show, so I’ve seen quite a few episodes. The show wasn’t groundbreaking, mind you, but it was still a fairly good one that actually did get me to laugh.
Fast Forward to 2008. We now have a movie starring Steve Carrel that is loosely based on the 60s show. Not surprisingly, much of the movie has been considerably modernized. A lot of the gadgets are more “high tech” (the shoe-phone still makes a memorable appearance, fortunately), and the plot as a whole feels more modern. That’s not a bad thing, however, as keeping it like the show was in the 60s would have severly hampered it. It was a wise decision of the creators to keep it “in line with the times.” Fortunately, the movie still kept a lot of the spirit of the show with it.

The characters are, of course, the reason why you watch the movie. Steve Carrell does a very good job portraying the hapless Maxwell Smart. Just as the TV show, Smart certainly thinks outside of the box, often fumbling his way through situations. However, Carrell makes a plain distinction between himself and Don Adams. While still using many of Adams’ catchphrases (among other things), Carrell makes the role his own. This was a good decision on Carrell’s part as well, for simply trying to copy Adams throughout the entire movie would’ve become droll, no matter how much it would have stayed in line with the old show. The real strength in Carrell’s portrayal, however, is how relateable he makes Smart. He gives him a lot of empathy (even if he can be a bit of an idiot). We understand where he’s coming from, and we truly do care for his plight, even if it is somewhat absurd. That being said, Carrell still keeps the comedy coming. All of the truly funny scenes involve him in some way (the scene in the airplane when Smart is getting ready to jump out is, hands-down, my favorite scene in the whole movie). Not surprisingly, however, Carrell is still very much Carrell, and there were a couple unnecessary additions the movie could’ve done without.

The only other memorable character in the movie (my apologies to The Rock – he does a good job with his role, but it’s fairly one-dimensional) is Anne Hathaway as Agent 99. Nevermind the fact that in one scene she looks like the veritable clone of Barbara Feldon (the original Agent 99), but she does a good job playing the more “serious” agent. Indeed, I have to say that one of the greatest strengths in this movie is the interaction between Hathaway and Carrell. The two do a fairly good job keeping each other on their toes, and some of their dialogue can be some of the funnier stuff in the movie (just pretend they’re really closer in age, ok?). We could’ve done without the backstory stuff on 99 (it really isn’t that interesting, even though it adds dimension to the character), but nevertheless, Hathaway is believable and pretty solid in her role.

Considering the way our culture is these days, a movie won’t become successful unless something blows up or someone gets shot. Realizing this, the creators decided to give the movie a fast-paced plot that is heavy on action, but still light-hearted in nature. I say this because, many scenes do have quick, fast-paced action, but certain laws of physics are sometimes broken in the process (in case you wanted to know – yes, you can fall from a plane without a parachute and still walk away – but only if you’re a massively muscular bad guy). Each action scene tops the previous one, and the movie is quite full of them. The creators were pretty smart (no pun intended) at making a movie that would keep the audience interested. The best part is, they managed to keep the comedy intact. A lot of movies these days are either all comedy and some action or mostly action and a little comedy. Get Smart is one of those rare movies that have somehow managed to combine both in a pretty good balance. This is the real strength of the movie. Neither one outdoes the other, but instead there is a pretty good balance – a rare thing in movies these days.

However, much of the appeal of the movie will rest in your particular sense of humor. Though occasionally intelligent, much of the humor is what I call “stupid humor” – it can sometimes be absolutely hilarious, but it doesn’t take much thinking (if any). There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, but some people just don’t appreciate that style of humor. The movie has a largely tongue-in-cheek feel to it overall. Lastly, there are a handful of innuendos that you may or may not find funny. That being said, the movie tries its best to include humor for all different kinds of people, but for those of you who like the humor mentioned above, this will appeal to you the most.

In the end, Get Smart is an interesting blend – a combination of both action and comedy that doesn’t detract from the other. Some of the acting is great, while some is somewhat shallow (I’m mostly just talking about the villains here), but the characters will keep you watching. Admittedly, the movie lacks a certain believability (some of the stuff pulled off just isn’t possible, plain and simple), it’s obvious that this movie is simply that – a movie, with it’s own terms. Once you come to embrace those terms, you can watch the movie for what it is: a funny summer action flick that keeps things moving at a good pace but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

If I had to give it an actual rating, it would probably be 7 out of 10 stars.

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~ by digitallysmitten on February 17, 2010.

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