It’s hard to imagine things getting much better for former “Daily Show” correspondent Steve Carell. He released two films this year: the animated “Horton Hears a Who!” in March and “Get Smart” in June, both of which are among the year’s top 15 highest grossing films. On top of that, his hit sitcom “The Office” returns to NBC on Sept. 25 for its fifth season. Even though 2008 will almost certainly go down as the year of “The Dark Knight,” Steve Carell at least deserves honorable mention. Steve Carell is no stranger to challenges. In 2007’s “Evan Almighty,” he replaced Jim Carrey as the recipient of God’s messages. Making a sequel to a Carrey movie without Carrey is usually a recipe for disaster, but Carell’s straight-laced charisma kept the movie afloat.
This brings us to Carell’s next and equally daunting task, filling the shoes of the late, great Don Adams as Maxwell Smart in “Get Smart.” Much like he did with “Evan Almighty,” Carell manages to turn a near certain disaster into a flawed but fun movie ride.
“Get Smart” is an updated version of Mel Brooks’ 60’s spy classic which ran for five seasons from 1965 to 1970. It tells the story of Maxwell Smart, a bumbling secret agent, and his smart and savvy female sidekick Agent 99 as they battle a criminal syndicate known only as KAOS. Smart and 99 work for CONTROL, a counter-organization that seeks to stop KAOS from taking over the world.
Anne Hathaway plays Agent 99, a spy who has had plastic surgery to totally alter her appearance and who is constantly annoyed by Smart’s antics.
She does a competent job, but overall she is no match for the comedic timing of Carell. Also her character is fairly uneven, which could be evidence of script problems or studio tampering.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Agent 23, CONTROL’s star agent and Smart’s idol. Everything about 23 is cool, right down to his number which could be a reference to Michael Jordan, who wore the number for the Chicago Bulls. Johnson does a good job here with the material he has to work with. Certainly playing an over-the-top, charismatic, he-man is nothing new for the man who bought us the World Wrestling Entertainment’s “The Rock.”
Terrance Stamp does a fine job as the villainous Siegfried, who is the head of KAOS, while Alan Arkin is effective as “The Chief,” of CONTROL. David Koechner shows up to play Larabee, who has changed somewhat from the character that appeared in the TV show. He is no longer an even more bumbling agent then Smart, as he is now a loud-mouthed goof similar to Champ Kind, Koechner’s character from “Anchorman.”
The real star, however, is Carell, who could be described as this generation’s Don Adams. They both have a similar straight-faced comedic approach and it helps to amplify the craziness that is going on around them. When Carell delivers Adams’ trademark “missed it by that much” line, one can’t help but think just how similar the two are. This works for and against Carell, though, as he is never really able to make Smart his own, despite his best efforts to lift the role above a mere impression.
The story is the biggest problem with “Get Smart.” It reeks of rewrites and reported studio interference. Crucial scenes were rumored to have been cut to make the film more accessible, and plot holes are everywhere.
Director Peter Segal is no stranger to big budget remakes as he is also the man who bought us Adam Sandler’s version of “The Longest Yard.” He handles the action well, but can’t make up for a script that is just lacking in many areas.
“Get Smart” does feature a handful of surprising and hilarious cameos, as most comedies these days seem to. To say who appears would ruin the surprise, but one does involve a comedic legend and a tree.
For fans of Steve Carell or the TV show, “Get Smart” is worth watching. However, as an action comedy it falls flat more times then not.
Those who enjoyed the show will get a kick out of seeing Carell as Smart because of his similarities to Adams, and those who love Carell will be not be disappointed because he is everywhere in the film. Overall though you would be better off picking up the DVDs of the show or hoping to catch it on TV Land late one night because there is nothing quite like the original.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year majoring in English with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.