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Get Smart (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 110 minutes.

I wasnít a fan of the TV series, that ran from 1965-70. Like most Mel Brooks vehicles (except 1974ís ďYoung Frankenstein,Ē the movie, not the play, and the brilliance of that film was probably due more to Gene Wilder, who wrote and starred, than to Brooks) it was much too over the top constantly reaching for jokes that werenít there. I did appreciate the genius of Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and Edward Platt in creating the characters of Maxwell Smart, Agent 99, and The Chief, respectively. It was those characters that made the series. Adams had a way of speaking and delivering his lines that made them memorable, even if they werenít, and thatís genius. Feldon was very sexy and Platt made The Chief appropriately frustrated with Smartís ego.

Alas, those traits are all missing in this film that canít decide whether itís a comedy or an action thriller. The TV series never had that problem; it knew it was a comedy, pure and simple. This film is replete with special effects and grotesque ways in which Maxwell injures himself, one particularly offensive one involving needles. The result is that itís a lousy comedy and a worse thriller.

Director Peter Segal has done some good work in the past (2004ís ď50 First DatesĒ), but has missed more often than heís hit. Jack Nicholson saved him in 2003ís ďAnger Management.Ē Who couldnít make an entertaining film with Jack as his star?

Steve Carrell plays Maxwell Smart and he completely misses the genius of what Adams created. Carrell plays Smart straight up. Gone is the inventive way that Adams delivered his lines. Not for the first time in her career Anne Hathaway is completely miscast as Agent 99. She also plays the character straight up without an iota of humor. Feldon always had a seductive smile on her face, treating Max with tolerant respect.

Segal and writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember have tried to create a situation in which Max has a crush on Agent 99. I donít remember that from the TV series. Feldon was extraordinarily sexy, but I donít remember Max hitting on her, as Carrell clumsily does throughout this film, another failed attempt at humor.

Alan Arkin is a major disappointment. Whenever I see him I remember how brilliant he was in ďThe Russians Are Coming; The Russians Are Coming,Ē director Norman Jewisonís hilarious 1966 Cold War comedy. Arkin has never risen to that level again, and he certainly doesnít here. Again, Segal and his writers have completely changed the character of The Chief, to its detriment.

This film isnít funny and itís not exciting (despite the puzzling presence of Dwayne Johnson, The Actor Formerly Known as The Rock, and a really idiotic climactic chase), so whatís the point?

June 20, 2008