Get Smart

Ealasaid/ June 30, 2008/ Movie Reviews and Features

Directed by: Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp
Rated: PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language.
Parental Notes: This is a pretty soft PG-13. There’s a shot of Mr. Carell with the seat of his pants torn off and some rather cartoony violence, and that’s about it.

“Get Smart” is a great summer movie: it offers fun, silliness, humor, and action in doses large enough to be entertaining without overstaying their welcome. It’s likely to appeal to a wide range of audiences, which makes it a choice for a good group outing. It’s suitable for kids, but likely to entertain adults as well.
The story follows Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), an analyst with the spy agency CONTROL. After years and years of trying to be promoted to field agent, Max gets his wish when an attack from CONTROL’s nemesis, the evil organization KAOS, leaves CONTROL headquarters in ruins and agents around the world compromised. Max is promoted and assigned to work with the only other uncompromised agent, the beautiful and deadly Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). 99 isn’t pleased to be stuck with the new guy, but the two head off to track down the villains, who are threatening to set nuclear weapons off around the world. The resulting adventure is a mashup of buddy, romance, spy, and action movie cliches that manages to keep all the various elements from overwhelming each other.
Carell is spot on as Max, who is very competent except when it’d be funnier if he screwed up. Max can do plenty of amazing things, from losing 150 pounds so he can handle the fitness portion of the field agent exam to translating hours of surveillance footage and creating detailed reports that run hundreds of pages. But he can’t do plenty of other things, like notice that a phone’s cord is too short to reach the person he’s throwing it at, or throw a grappling hook correctly. Carell makes Max believable as someone who has been striving for years to get where he is now, but is in a little over his head, and manages to make Max utterly self-confident without crossing the line and making him an arrogant jerk.
The secondary characters are all spot on as well. Hathaway is perfect as the mysterious and talented 99, Alan Arkin is in fine fettle as the head of CONTROL, Dwayne “don’t call me The Rock anymore” Johnson is in his element as the hilarious and macho Agent 23, and Terrence Stamp glides through his role as the villainous Sigfried like a master dancer through a familiar pas de deux.
The great cast is supported by camera work and special effects worthy of the big-budget spy movies “Get Smart” is spoofing. There are explosions; chase scenes involving trains, planes, and SUVs; gunfights; fistfights; and even a chase scene that takes place in free fall. The stunts are breathtaking and the effects are spectacular — doubly so since they are in a movie that is ostensibly a comedy rather than a straight-up spy thriller.
“Get Smart” is a movie that should satisfy both comedy fans and action fans. It’s lighthearted, fun, and exciting without crossing the line into gratuitous violence or overly sophomoric stupidity. The talent and light touches on display here are to be commended.

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