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Missed it by That Much: Get Smart should have stuck to its classic roots 

Who gave the Rock a gun?Get Smart attempts a big-screen adaptation of a small-screen show, trying hard to stay somewhat reverent to the original. The

click to enlarge Who gave the Rock a gun?
  • Who gave the Rock a gun?
Who gave the Rock a gun?Get Smart attempts a big-screen adaptation of a small-screen show, trying hard to stay somewhat reverent to the original. The film was the brainchild of Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, (credited as consultants) but this remake somehow lost the duo's slapstick wit and brainy innuendoes. In fact, the entire movie smacks of lackluster performances and tedious plot-fillers. What was once wacky spy stuff alongside the goofiness of Mad magazine, is now an almost risk-free and gutless remake.

 
The opening music wanders in schmaltz land until the credits arrive at the credits with the familiar multiple doors closing shut to the sound of the original TV theme song. The simplistic plot is that KAOS (the evil organization) wants to wreak havoc on the planet by bombing select cities starting with Los Angeles. CONTROL (the good guys) has to stop them.

Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, aka Agent 86, takes on the Don Adams role in a weirdly subtle performance. Carell is a really good choice, but whereas Don Adams had this kind of pestering suave bravado, Carell comes off as more of a wimp with surprises. The original 86, due to his boasting and know-it-all attitude, brought everything on himself and he got what he deserved. In 2008, we get a pathetic 86 begging you to feel sorry for him-it's just not right. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway is extremely sexy, replacing Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. And that's no small feat. Who didn't have a crush on Feldon's 99? Max's rapport with 99, however, is only sometimes bearable.


More fun that should've worked was Alan Arkin as the Chief; unlike the stoic-yet-frazzled leader of the TV series, Arkin's Chief has a furious temper, short-fusing his way into punching anyone, anytime. Then there's Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson as Agent 23 doing his "watch-me-I'm-acting" shtick. Would someone please banish him back to wrestling? We also get fat-suit jokes, real life fat people jokes, scientist-geek jokes, the president reading to children in a classroom joke (this spoof can retire anytime) and a vice president pace-maker joke. There were things I was waiting for - the "cone of silence" for one. Introduced as an updated and modified gizmo, it still plays on the joke that once inside the contraption to converse secretly, no one can hear each other. The original low-tech version was much funnier and the resurrection of the shoe-phone is completely pointless.

But the lines taken from the old show: "Sorry about that, Chief," "Would you believe?" and "Missed it by that much" suffer the most. Originally, the sayings rang true out of repetition and even got irritatingly and annoyingly funny. Here they come out of the blue and seemingly have no real meaning. Interjected only for those who get it, they lose their punch.

It seems that this movie can't make up its mind whether to be a summer action flick or to stay true to the original show. Get Smart somehow seems lost in its own fray and thereby leaves itself stuck in the rut of being never funny enough or sufficiently action-packed. I'm leaning toward the idea that high-tech movie logic should have left this one alone, remaking it in a cruder, crummier no-tech way allowing the characters' incompetence to shine through. Then maybe it would've at least been amusing.

Get Smart ★★✩✩✩
Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp. Directed by Peter Segal

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