Get Smart (2008) dir. Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Terrence Stamp
Turning “Get Smart” into a feature film 40 years after the original series is a bit of an oddity. After all the series was intended as a spoof on the Spy films and TV shows of the 60’s. Now there's not much to spoof anymore, and so, there’s much to be lost in the timegap.
So the filmmakers make the (excuse the pun) smart decision to update the main character, Maxwell Smart, for the 00's. In the TVseries he was a bumbling n’er do well, whose naivity often got him out of his difficult situations. In the film version Steve Carell’s Maxwell Smart, actually is smart. He’s introduced as a meticulously detailed intelligence analyst who writes the briefings for the field agents. But when an enemy attack from their rivals 'CHAOS' destroys their main hub Smart becomes a field agent for the first time. It’s a dream come true for Smart, who yearns for the action.
Smart is paired up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), a beautiful female superagent. Smart’s inexperience in the field causes conflict with 99, who is a seasoned veteran of the action. Smart and 99 travel to Moscow to source out the mastermind of the attack and save the visiting President of the United States from an assassination attempt.
Steve Carell is a natural successor to Don Adams. He has the same geek chic quality and ultra serious demeanour to sell the deadpan gags. Carell's Maxwell Smart turns out to be a variation of his "40 Year Old Virgin" character - generating sympathy from his ineptitude. Gags don't exactly fly off the screen as the humour is contained for family-friendly audiences. As for the action, there's much of it, and all adequately imagined and executed.
So it’s petty to say, but what really kept me interested is the stunning beauty of Anne Hathaway. She's arguably at or near the height of her career. Much attention was given to her wardrobe and make-up to maximize her curvy figure and porcelain skin. Ms, Hathway shows off her ample assets tastefully but also just enough to tease us. Despite a 20 year age difference between the Hathaway and Carell, director Peter Segal manages to sell us a romance between the two.
So apart from a few borrowed lines, and the names of the characters “Get Smart” the film honours the original series in name only.The famous opening sequence - Smart walking through the endless hallway of doors - also remains, except updated with unnecessary CGI. Really, the production designer couldn't construct a real set of doors to walk through?
Some mediocre action scenes, plot twists and Terrence Stamp all seem perfunctory additions to add polish on to what was originally a low budget but clever satirical series. So substitute high budget for low budget, action for satire and you have a new franchise. I hope Hathaway at least sticks around for one or two more, else they've lost me. Enjoy.
"Get Smart" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Home Video