Carell and a great cast offer breezy summer fun.
When I first heard that they were making a Get Smart movie, my reaction was little more than a shrug. After all, with everything from The Honeymooners to Dukes of Hazzard being translated to (and usually butchered on) the big screen, it's only a matter of time before every bit of warm and fuzzy baby boomer nostalgia is shoved into your local megaplex.
But when Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway were cast as Maxwell Smart and Agent 99, respectively, interest peaked for both show loyalists and laymen. Not only were these two an inspired bit of casting when stacked against original players Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, but Carell is amongst the most likable actors out there (we can forgive and forget on Evan Almighty) and Anne Hathaway is a smart, likable young actress showing some great promise.
The new take on the classic show finds Maxwell Smart as the top analyst for the secret government organization CONTROL. Smart is tired of his desk job and longs to see some action in the field as an agent. His detailed reports draw mockery around the office and few believe he has the chops for field work. When he passes the agent test with flying colors, The Chief (Alan Arkin) tells him that he's simply too good as an analyst to become an agent. But when an attack from crime syndicate nemesis KAOS (headed by Terence Stamp as Siegfried) leaves CONTROL crippled, Smart is promoted to agent status and given his new partner, Agent 99 (Hathaway).
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson co-stars as Smart's venerable cohort, the heroic Agent 23 and Borat's Ken Davitian plays Siegfried henchman, Shtarker. Get Smart is directed by Peter Segal (Anger Management, The Longest Yard).
Get Smart is a near-perfect vehicle for Carell, who plays a more intelligent and less offensive variation on his infamous Michael Scott character from The Office. He carries the movie from start to finish, delivering lines that really shouldn't be funny but somehow work only because of his inexplicable knack for pitch-perfect comic timing.
Hathaway is relegated to "straight man" status, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Besides the looks, Hathaway has an undeniable real-girl likability combined with an intelligence that elevates every role she's in. She and Carell don't exactly have electric chemistry, but she does a commendable job setting Carell up for the laughs before stepping aside to let him do his thing.
Director Peter Segal does what he does, delivering a comedy with enough laughs to please the summer crowds. Unfortunately, a strong start soon teeters back to the expected formulaic territory. Audiences will likely recall a clever moment or two upon exiting the theater, but the bulk of the flick will escape from memory by the next morning's cup of coffee.
Get Smart succeeds as escapist summer fare. It isn't on the same comedic plane as recent Judd Apatow works, for example, but then again it does have the advantage of being a comedy you can take the entire family to. Get Smart delivers the laughs along with some decent action and Carell is in totalcommand as Maxwell Smart.