Get Smart ***1/2 (out of ****)

Director: Peter Segal
Writers: Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, based on characters created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp
Rating: PG-13 (rude humor, action violence, and language)
Running Time: 110 min
Release Date: 6/20/08

Get Smart is the new movie adaptation of the vintage1960s TV series of the same title. As is common in many of the films of this type, the movie tells the story of how the basic setup of the TV series came to be. Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is a top analyst with an agency known as CONTROL who wants to become a field agent. However, the Chief (Alan Arkin) denies him that assignment because he is the organizations top analyst.

Meanwhile KAOS launches a sinister plot to provide nuclear weapons to unstable regimes around the world that was phoned in on the Homeland Security tip line. They follow this up by assassinating most of CONTROL’s field agents. In dire need of new talent whose identities are unknown to KAOS, Maxwell Smart becomes Agent 86 and is teamed with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who has just had radical cosmetics surgery, for a mission to Russia.

In the current movie adaptation CONTROL is depicted as a secret U.S. agency that is a rival to the CIA. KAOS seems to be given a Russian connection that was never part of the TV series. Their leader Siegfried (Terrence Stamp) is obviously German and KAOS always seemed to be a group of Nazi agents who went freelance after World War II to be become international criminals. Perhaps they eventually joined forces with ex-KGB agents?

Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 travel to Moscow to investigate a bakery used by KAOS to assemble nuclear bombs. Steve Carell is as well suited to portraying the character made famous by the late Don Adams as any contemporary actor. However, he just can’t quite nail the “would you believe” lines. Anne Hathaway’s Agent 99 has the predictable expansion of female physicality, i.e. she kicks ass a lot more than the Barbara Feldon portrayal. They are joined by a new tough guy, Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock). And, Bill Murray has a cameo appearance as Agent 13 who hides in a tree.

KAOS plots to detonate a nuclear bomb in the Disney Center in Los Angeles when the president will be present for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Siegfried muses with his assistant about misfortune of the loss of political commentary from the actors who will be killed in the destruction of the city. Smart falls under suspicion after Agent 23 fails to confirm radioactivity at the site of the Russian bakery. He and Agent 99 have to save LA and the president in spite of the best efforts of the Secret Service to get in the way.

Get Smart does an excellent job of balancing action with comedy. The action scenes and special effects are of far higher quality than you expect in comedy. The overall tone is a little less campy than the 1960s TV series. This better fits that major movie format and contemporary tastes. This is a film you don’t want to miss.


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