I can’t say that I’m a fan of Hollywood’s big screen interpretation of classic television shows. But then again, I can’t say I’m totally against it.
For example, The Brady Bunch was a hilarious send-up of the original corny show. On the other hand, The Flintstones was a pale imitation amounting to not much more than a 22-minute episode stretched into a two hour movie with better animation.
I used to watch the original “Get Smart!” in reruns. I’ll admit that it was hard for me to accept anyone else playing Maxwell Smart as well as he did. Fortunately, when it comes to Steve Carell in the new Get Smart film, they made the right choice.
It’s not that Carell gives us a spot-on impression of Don Adams. In fact, his version of Maxwell Smart is a bit closer to Michael Scott from “The Office” than what we’re used to seeing for the bumbling secret agent. However, this works out for the best.
Carell makes the character of Maxwell Smart his own, for better or for worse. He doesn’t necessarily try to live up to what Don Adams did in the legendary 60s sit com. Rather, he gives us a new interpretation of Agent 86. Since Hollywood isn’t going to resurrect Adams from the dead, I don’t see any other way of achieving a movie like this.
Get Smart pays homage to the 60s television show without necessarily making itself consistent with the storyline. It features CONTROL, a spy organization in the U.S. government, as a dinosaur. It still operates to fight KAOS, a spoof of James Bond’s nemesis SPECTRE, but it does so in secrecy.
Gone is the Cold War, but there are still plenty of nuclear devices out there to stir up trouble. Siegfried (Terrence Stamp), the leader of KAOS, is planning some nuclear shenanigans, and he’s got a mole in CONTROL. Newly-minted agent Maxwell Smart is the only one left to stop them, along with a sexy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).
Get Smart is a bit of a slow starter. The first half isn’t unbearable to watch by any means, but it is a much stronger movie on the back end. Things start looking up when Carell’s slapstick is tempered with his banter with Hathaway. They have great chemistry and make the middle of the film work.
Also turning in stellar performances is Dwayne Johnson as Agent 23, the most suave and capable secret agent in CONTROL, and Alan Arkin as the impulsive Chief. Along with Terry Crews, David Koechner and James Caan as the President, the cast is what makes this movie work.
“Get Smart!” purists will likely be offended at the tinkering with the storyline. But this is to be expected for anyone who can’t let the original go. In terms of reaching a 21st century audience, Get Smart was about as good as it could be.
THE UPSIDE: Steve Carell is funny, as always.
THE DOWNSIDE: It will never quite live up to the old TV show.
ON THE SIDE: If you want to see more of Maxwell Smart in his original glory, check out the entire series on DVD, or you can also get the original Maxwell Smart movie, The Nude Bomb, recently released on DVD.