"Get Smart"; a film review by Gary Chew
Would you believe that Maxwell Smart has returned to us from the thrilling days of yesteryear? Would you believe that Agent 99 is at his side like the old days when the NBC sitcom of the late 60s held sway?
No, it's not Don Adams and Barbara Feldon but Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway who are now fighting nuclear terrorism with all the big-time fast action and special effects known to the awful and precise technology of the Hollywood Man. And did I mention the quick cartoonish gags and punch lines for which the NBC-TV series is remembered with thanks going to creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry?
If you don't recall: "Get Smart" is mostly about getting KAOS, a covert, evil assemblage of criminals and imperialists as found in the nemeses of James Bond's SMERSH and Napoleon Solo's THRUSH. "Get Smart's" Bondian bad-guy-in-chief is played by none other than Terence Stamp, who always puts a personal stamp on his roles. Wagnerians everywhere will be pleased to learn Mr. Stamp's character is called Siegfried. He may be the only geo-political criminal on film who appreciates Beethoven's 9th enough.
Other well known actors show up for the fun and, sometimes, brutal but bloodless action. There's Alan Arkin as chief of CONTROL; Dwayne Johnson as the hunky Agent 23; Bill Murray, in cameo, disguised as a tree in a D.C. park but known to his colleagues as Agent 13; and another brief appearance by Kevin Nealon (SNL) at an important meeting of the government's upper echelon. James Caan plays the President with what sounded to me to be someone else's voice dubbed-in.
For the esoteric filmgoer, Ken Davitian plays Stamp's number one henchman in "Get Smart." If your memory needs jogging, Mr. Davitian turned in a spectacular performance as Sacha Baron Cohen's ice cream truck driver in the zany "Borat," You'll remember those two in a motel room acting out the most 'memorable' nude male wrestling scene since Ken Russell filmed Alan Bates' and Oliver Reed's tussle from D.H. Lawrence's "Women In Love."
"Get Smart" has a narrative and plot but it's all so familiar, what happens isn't really necessary to explain again. Just go for the fun, the gags and punch lines (the mark for which some miss) as well as the good jobs done by Carell and Hathaway. Hathaway's Agent 99 is somewhat darker than Feldon's, and in light of the bunglative (a word?) manner of Max, might strike a better contrast between these competitive characters. Peter Segal ("The Longest Yard," and "Anger Management") directed.
What's to be considered in this PG-13 movie? It's that it draws from present-day fears, i.e., nuclear terrorism, but super-imposes them on Russian culture. One point of comedy exploited by the screenwriters (Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember) to good effect, I think though, is a display of Russian peasants who've succumbed to the material ways of the West. Maybe that horse ought to have been ridden a bit farther.
But whatever: Peter Sellers disciples, arise and demand thanks.
"Get Smart" preview