Get Smart (2008)
Carell's Mission Improbable
Is that your default setting? Do you just punch people in the face, willy-nilly? Its Tuesday, I'll punch Max in the face. Ooh, a box of kittens, time to punch Max in the face. Oh, I'm having some bread. Time to punch Max in the face - Maxwell Smart
As is often the case "Get Smart" has one major issue, it is a movie version of an American TV series, one which to be frank I had never heard of or seen and as such all the in jokes, the nostalgic scenes didn't mean didly squat to me. Because of this "Get Smart" came across as just a spoof of the secret agent genre of movies, which from what I understand was the intention of the TV series. It's not a bad spoof either because there is plenty of comedy, in fact a huge amount of comedy yet in-between all the jokes their is a storyline to string it all together.
Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell - Dan in Real Life) works for Control a secret spy organization and although he wants to be a spy he is too good at his job as an intelligence officer. But when terrorist organization Kaos attack Control Maxwell is given his chance and becomes Agent 86 sent on a mission to Russia with sexy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway - The Devil Wears Prada) to stop the terrorists from building nuclear weapon. But between being super efficient yet slightly inept it's not easy for Agent 86 and Agent 99 to complete their mission.
Whilst there is a storyline to "Get Smart" it is both remarkably slim and intentionally cliche. Some diabolical terrorist wants to cause chaos and so we have the agents trying to bring them down including brand new and occasional inept Agent 86 Maxwell Smart. In a strange way the unoriginal storyline is exactly what "Get Smart" needed because it is purely there to tie together all the humorous moments and set piece gags. As such it does get to the point that you don't care about the storyline, you can guess the outcome and all that matters is the comedy.
Understandably much of the comedy pays homage to the secret agent genre so you have a touch of "James Bond", a smidgen of "Mission Impossible", a soupcon of "Police Squad" and so on but also with it being a new movie there is a touch of "MIB" and "Austin Powers" about it all as well. It all works well providing plenty of laughs many of which are obvious but still funny. Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart is a great piece of casting because his slightly stiff comedy persona, delivering gags with all most a rigidity about him makes many of the weaker moments funny. But there are also some surprisingly clever moments of comedy, super Agent 23 played by Dwayne Johnson stapling paper to another agents head is both unexpected but also painful and strangely humorous.
But as I mentioned "Get Smart" is a movie version of an old American TV series and as such there are plenty of in jokes. The car and suit which Maxwell walks by to get into the secret offices is obviously a homage to the TV series but means absolutely nothing to those, like me, who never saw it. And there are a lot more of these moments, these in jokes which really fail to work unless you were a fan of the original series. It's a shame as these moments tend to spoil the movie because you are left feeling like an outsider to some secret.
Despite the issue with the in jokes the casting of "Get Smart" is pretty brilliant with Steve Carell leading the movie as Maxwell Smart brilliantly. I've liked pretty much all of Carell's movies and again he delivers that same slightly awkward comedy which he is so good at, playing the slightly stiff but funny character who borders slightly on the creepy when he tries to switch the charm on. Alongside Carell is the lovely Anne Hathaway as Agent 99 playing that stereotypically sexy agent, laying way to a light romantic theme to the movie. And Alan Arkin is as always a pleasure as The Chief of the spy agency.
But surprisingly the most entertaining performance comes from Dwayne Johnson as super brilliant spy Agent 23. When Agent 23 walks into the office to a round of applause the way Johnson delivers that big ego is perfect and it continues throughout showing not so much a deft hand at comedy but a natural ability to be funny.
What this all boils down to is that "Get Smart" is an entertaining movie, one of the better movies when it comes to spoofing the spy genre. But because it is a movie version of an old TV series there are several elements which don't work for those who have never seen it. But with Carell, Johnson, Hathaway and Arkin all delivering great moments of hilarity it will do what it sets out to and that is to be fun.
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