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June 25, 2008 > Movie Review: Get Smart - and avoid this movie

Movie Review: Get Smart - and avoid this movie

By Vidya Pradhan

Maybe I'm dating myself but I have actually seen episodes of the Emmy award-winning television series "Get Smart" (in reruns) I remember splitting my sides laughing as hapless, bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart, working for a U.S. spy agency called CONTROL, blundered his way into sticky situations fighting the bad guys of KAOS ( pronounced "chaos").

Keeping him out of trouble were blind luck and the considerable talents of efficient, competent and oh-so-feminine Agent 99. Every episode would end with success for the unlikely duo, with a resigned "Oh, Max," from the patient and loving 99.

The series validated the secret belief that women share that the world would go to hell in a hand basket if it was all left up to men. In Maxwell Smart's bumbling incompetence we saw a reflection of the men surrounding us who would go off tilting at windmills while we capably managed home and hearth. Mel Brooks' zany brain provided the humor and the one-line zingers ("Missed it by this much") that kept us wanting more.

The only thing this movie version has in common with the television series is the names of the lead characters. Gone is the awkwardness and the mental slowness that made Smart so endearing. Apart from a slight clumsiness, this Maxwell Smart (played by goofy everyman Steve Carell) is actually a research analyst with plenty of brains, even if he has a tendency to be long-winded and boring. Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway with devilishly smart clothes) is far from the calm and gentle foil to Max. She has her own issues and comes across as competitive and shrewish.

But the real failure of the movie is in its script, which is confusing and unfunny. The movie begins with Max attempting to get out of his desk job and become a field agent. An unexplained attack on the CONTROL command center gives him the opportunity and he is teamed up with experienced Agent 99 to track down some missing nukes. Many pointless twists and turns later, the entire cast lands up in Los Angeles to foil an attack on the President, who is attending a concert at Disney Hall.

The plot defies logic. There are so many unanswered questions that I felt I was taking a test in a nightmare (though with more clothes on!) The only humor, if it can be called that, comes from sight gags involving hits to the groin, punctured skin and vomit. Steve Carell deadpans his way through the movie, gamely being hit, poked, slapped and knocked out in the name of comedy.

"Get Smart" is a pure Hollywood product and therefore a truly shoddy piece of work. There is such an enormous pool of talent in the ensemble cast, with Alan Arkin as the Chief of CONTROL and James Caan as the George W. Bush-like President. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson makes an appearance as Agent 23 and Masi Oka of "Heroes" is a nerdy gadget freak at CONTROL. All of it is wasted in this third-rate Hollywood nonsense. Get smart, save your 10 bucks and stay home.

110 minutes

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