Television series adaptations have a sketchy history. From The Avengers to Starsky and Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard, there are far fewer hits than misses. It's a bit surprising, really, as every big television series has established characters, built-in fanbases and potential at a big screen level. But it's the fanbases that throw studios for a loop and encourage them to make crap. On the one hand, they want to appeal to such audiences that have very specific expectations, and on the other, they want the movie to work on a broader, modern level. The result is almost always an unfunny and uneven creation.
Unlike most of these TV-to-movie adaptations, Get Smart showed promise. The film featured at-his-apex Steve Carell in a role that seemed perfectly suited for him. A great supporting cast consisting of Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson (finally shedding his "The Rock" alter ego), Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp and even James Caan and Bill Murray was another indicator. The previews, a blend of action and goofy comedy, also worked quite well. Still, nothing's a sure thing in Hollywood, and as the big weekend approached, reviews were mixed at best.
Thankfully, Get Smart is a pretty entertaining film. No one will praise it as the most brilliant movie ever, nor even the most spectacular of comedies. It is a tad inconsistent at times, not always on-spot with its jokes and flat in a few places. But, overall, Get Smart is what I was hoping for, and thus no where close to being a disappointment. It's good enough that I will look forward to its inevitable sequel.
The movie stars Carell as Maxwell Smart, a CONTROL analyst who gets his big break at being a field agent when the agency - and its existing agents - are compromised by a leak. Smart is teamed with Agent 99 (Hathaway), who is as lethal as she is hot, and the two form an uneasy alliance as they seek to take down KAOS once and for all.
Get Smart is James Bond meets "The Office," to put it in modern terms. Having never watched the original series, I can't compare, but the movie appears to have conquered the right blend of making the film modern without completely changing its roots. Impressively, director Peter Segal (Tommy Boy) manages to gloss over the fact that the Soviet Unio/Russia are no longer opponents of the U.S. as they were in the Cold War, and has all but brought the same conflict into the 21st century. Segal moves between action and comedy quite well; Get Smart is surprisingly action packed at times, though it never takes itself too seriously.
Of course, the make or break angle is the comedy, and Get Smart pulls off enough jokes to make it worth it. The movie isn't constantly funny - there are jokes that fall flat and others that are just awkward, but the screenwriters seemed to be aware of this and just keep spitting them out. The dialogue and gags come fast enough that even if a few jokes fall flat, you'll be chuckling a fair amount of the time. There are also some very clever jokes, though the marketing team included a fair amount of them in the previews.
Carell is, in fact, the perfect choice for the role. He essentially plays the same character that he does in "The Office," but adapted to a spy comedy. Hathaway fits the part well, though I didn't love her. The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good, specifically Johnson and some of the other "macho" agents.
Get Smart would have benefited from a tighter and more refined script, but even when jokes are failing, it seems intentional. Overall, the movie is entertaining and funny. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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