CHICAGO – Standing up at the Lyric Opera house in Chicago is unusual before a show. But in this case, it was the night after a tragedy, and the operetta “The Merry Widow” – set in Paris, France, in 1905 – was about to unfold. The orchestra struck up La Marseillaise, a reminder that we’ll always have Paris.
In ‘Get Smart’ Lifeless Retread, Steve Carell Can’t Fill Don Adams’ Shoe
CHICAGO – Observing the new “Get Smart” film, which is based on the 1960s TV sitcom of the same name, is to note how much has changed since the Cold War ended.
KAOS and CONTROL – the U.S. and Russian spy agencies that square off in the movie – seem like relics of another era. In this age of homeland security and unlimited government wiretapping, it’s difficult to create fictional comedy that can compete with real-life absurdity.
Photo credit: Tracy Bennett
The film version of “Get Smart” lives up to that truth. Combining dull action-movie elements, badly cast movie stars and an uncomfortable romance, the film has forgotten all about its TV roots and most of the humor.
Played by Steve Carell, Maxwell Smart is a Russian interpreter and communications administrator in the secret government spy agency CONTROL.
The chief (Alan Arkin) wants Smart to stay in the administration even though he longs to join spies like Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) and work in the field.
After KAOS – a rival Russian agency – infiltrates and wrecks the CONTROL offices, Smart is promoted to field agent and partnered with super-spy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). Their mission is to find out who’s behind KAOS and identify their evil plans.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
This takes them to the heart of Moscow. Thinking a Russian bakery is a KAOS front for nuclear weapons, Smart and 99 plant explosives and barely escape.
Photo credit: Tracy Bennett
When the wrecked building turns up nothing, the wily Russians then travel to Los Angeles. Following them there, Smart and 99 must confront their rivals one last time and save the world.
Steve Carell is clearly not up to the challenge of filling Don Adams’ phone shoe as Maxwell Smart. The comedy he delivers is mostly cruel and has none of the snap or silliness of Adams’ razor-sharp interpretation.
Hathaway – who was cooler and more subtly amusing in “The Devil Wears Prada” – is completely out of her element when handling weaponry and practicing martial arts. She and Carell have less chemistry than a baking-soda volcano and their age difference is awkwardly apparent when they attempt romance.
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More film reviews from critic Patrick McDonald.
It seemed the filmmakers never saw one episode of the TV series when formulating the plot.
The film version tries to shoehorn reminders of several action movies – the James Bond series, “Mission Impossible,” “True Lies,” “Silver Streak” and even “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (among others) – but oddly distances itself from its primary and funnier television source.
This film is just another based-on-a-TV-show miscue that wastes a decent comic opportunity on let’s-blow-things-up trivialities. The legacy of “Get Smart,” audiences everywhere and ultimately the great Don Adams all deserve better.