The first thing you need to know about Get Smart is that death by post-it note is a slow death. If you didn’t already know that, you’re probably not CONTROL material. But Steve Carell is, and he leads a great cast of classic characters that deliver a spy van full of laughs and do the original TV series slapstick justice.
If you haven’t been bunkered down in a hovel across enemy lines collecting enemy chatter, then you already know the plot, but we’ll go through the rundown for your brave, unwashed benefit comrade.
Maxwell Smart (Carell) is thrown into the role of CONTROL Agent when the headquarters of the super-double-secret spy organization is infiltrated by arch nemesis KAOS and the names and information of most other agents is compromised. He joins with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to journey deep into Russia to blow the lid off a conspiracy to steal nuclear materials and threaten the major cities of the United States.
As you can tell by the plot outline, things are kept pretty simple this go ’round. That allows for the background noise to be turned low enough to hear the jokes which fly by almost constantly. The term laugh-a-minute is a bit hackneyed for my taste, and Get Smart comes closer to several laughs-a-minute. I didn’t have a stop watch handy, but if I had, I imagine there could have been two or three every minute easily.
We’re not talking about rocket surgery here. The jokes come mostly from Carell’s dead pan delivery, playing both jokester and straight man while Anne Hathaway’s 99 watches along in stunned surprise that someone like Agent Smart could function at the most basic of levels. Perhaps that most brilliant twist to the already iconic character is that Carrell’s Smart can actually kick ass. He has his share of accidental successes and kills, but when it comes down to crunch time, he has a few good ideas and some acrobatic moves to his name. Even more awesomely, Agent 99 is a great character -smart, cunning, lethal. She plays a great foil and love interest but never sinks to damsel in distress mode and rarely needs help from anyone taking out a couple dozen henchmen.
The rest of the laughs in the equation come from subplots involving idiotic agents like David Koechner’s Larabee adjusting to office life and nerd analysts played by Masi Oka and Nate Torrence. These quick shots into the working world of CONTROL while 99 and Smart are on assignment are almost always hilarious. The standout on that side of the subplots is Alan Arkin who gives a lovable performance as The Chief. He’s a solid mentor type that believes in Max from the beginning and shows that he still has some spy skills in the field himself by the end.
Thankfully, there are a lot of goodies for fans of the original series, but they never interrupt the action or get in the way for a neophyte audience. No one on earth has Don Adams’ voice, but Carell is the closest thing to a match we’ll get on this side of three decades. He misses things by “this much”, and, although he never gets his nose smashed in anything, would you believe that he gets to use the shoe phone? Okay – then would you believe there’s a killer cameo by Bernie Kopell, the original Siegfried? Well you should. Because there is.
But even if you’ve never seen an episode of the original 1960s series, you’ll dig this movie. It works on a lot of classic comedy levels, and it’s no surprise that Mel Brooks was a consultant on this project, because his humor and love for his characters is reflected in every pair of spy sunglasses on set. It’s a parody movie the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while – the makers of Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie, and Movie Movie should take notice of how it’s actually done.
Okay, so you may not actually get to see a death by post-it note, but watching The Rock staple documents to David Koechner’s head might just be worth the ticket price. Especially for everyone who lost ticket money to The Comebacks. All refund humor aside, Get Smart is a lot of fun with a ton of great action. Plus, it succeeds by staying true to the spirit of the original series. It’s a great comedy that offers some much needed relief from a comic book saturated summer.
The Upside: Comedy. Action. Anne Hathaway looking hot.
The Downside: There could have been a few more goodies for the die-hard fans.
On the Side: A decade ago, when producers were trying to get this thing off the ground, Jim Carrey was going to play Maxwell Smart. Thank you, thank you, Hollywood, for not allowing that to happen.