Get Smart / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | June 20, 2008 | Comments ()
I loathe reviewing movies like Get Smart because they give me so little to work with. It is not a movie that warrants our scathingness, but neither is it a film that should be lauded as the cinematic equivalent of the smell of a baby’s neck. It is amazingly unexceptional, but remarkably diverting. It’s a pretty bad action pic, but a pretty good comedy, making it a decent action-comedy. It has an atrocious script, but an exceptional cast. Indeed, it is to movies what Phoenix or Denver is to cities: A place you don’t mind being, but not exactly a city on your summer vacation calendar. Or what The Fray is to music: Very listenable if it’s on, but not something you call up on the ole’ iPod. It is what Raisinets are to candy, what Burger King is to fast food, what Olive Garden is to chain restaurants, what the seventh season of “Scrubs,” is to television, what the Minnesota Twins are to baseball, what the Camry is to automobiles, what tomatoes are to a ham sandwich or a dollop of sour cream is to a nice burrito: You can give or take it, whichever. Ain’t nothing nobody is going to feel passionately about one way or another, but neither is Get Smart a movie you can get too down on. It is the missionary position with an old friend on a break between girlfriends: It kills the time. For everything good about it, there’s something just as bad.
It is: Even Steven.
As to the plot: There isn’t much of one, really. The Chief of Control (Alan Arkin) gives eager Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), a bumbling analyst, who just lost 150 pounds, a long-anticipated promotion to field agent after a series of agents are killed by an evil organization, KAOS, headed by Siegfried (Terrence Stamp). Smart is partnered with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who recently underwent dramatic, face-changing plastic surgery, and the two are sent to the Soviet Union to infiltrate KOAS and find out what’s up. What’s up is that they are building nuclear bombs with the intent to use them to extort $200 billion out of the United States. It’s about as generic a plotline as you’re going to see. The Rock plays Control’s superstar Agent 23, who is forced to cope with working in the office after his cover is compromised (and I don’t know when it happened for me, but The Rock — who doesn’t exactly make good movies — has nevertheless ingratiated himself to me). Terry Crews and David Koechner play The Rock’s comedic foils (badly, I must add), while, Masi Oka and Nate Torrence play the requisite gadget geeks. And, in an effort to bring the “Get Smart” premise from out of the Cold War and into modern politics, James Caan is cast in the role of The President, an insanely dumb man who basically answers to the Vice President. The parallels to the current administration are way too obvious to elicit much amusement and Caan is kind of horrible as the faux-Bush.
Aside from the familiar names, the opening credits, and a few passing references, Get Smart the film has little else to do with the original Don Adams television series, which also means that the film has none of the satirical elements that made the television show so appealing in the 60s, but then again, the James Bond satire has pretty much run its course on the big screen. Granted, given the slate of blockbusters so far in ‘08, mediocrity gives Get Smart the bronze, behind Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, but ahead of Indy IV and Sex and the City, which means if you’ve exhausted the decent possibilities at your local multiplex, you could do a lot worse than spending 110 minutes with this lot. In fact, I laughed ten or 12 times — even uproariously three or four of those times. But then again, I guffawed at three or four of the preposterous action sequences. Steve Carrel was affable and even amusing at times, and I have to admit that Anne Hathaway made a pretty good action heroine: She whooped ass with leggy aplomb, but her romantic subplot with Maxwell Smart was pointless and distracted from her leggy awesomeness. The Rock was The Rock: Charming and forgettable, while Alan Arkin’s comedic deadpan balanced Terrence Stamp’s scene-gnawing turn as the villain. All in all, it was a wash, a rudimentary, by the numbers exercise. It was silly, occasionally fun, never particularly stupid, and tediously amusing.
Indeed, Get Smart is, like this review, simply adequate.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.