I’ll start off this rant with a defense of the filmmakers responsible for the new Get Smart movie: to their credit, they wisely chose not to completely “ape” the original TV series. That having been said, I’m curious as to what their intentions were when conceiving this film in the first place.
I went to see Get Smart this past Saturday with sister Kat and a few of our friends. The movie wasn’t as bad as I expected…but it isn’t particularly good, either. Kat thinks Steve Carell is one of the funniest men walking the planet today (strolling along with Will Farrell, I hasten to add) and while I’ll admit to snickering a time or two when Carell was a Daily Show correspondent, I have to be honest: I don’t find him all that funny in films. While watching Smart, I couldn’t quite get a bead on his take on Maxwell Smart: in some situations, he’s a bungling nincompoop—in others, he’s a man who's been severely "misunderestimated" by his foes. This kind of schizophrenic back-and-forth kept me from sympathizing with his character.
Most of what turned me off to Get Smart is what keeps me from enjoying a great many modern-day movies: the writers toss out anything resembling scripted wit and replace it with stunts, fistfights and explosions. Naturally, I’m pleased that stuntmen and stuntwomen are working in Hollywood, but it seems like every movie of this type resorts to the same paint-by-numbers strategy of “blowing things up real good!” Yes, I know I sound like an old fogey—particularly since movies nowadays are geared to audiences far younger than myself—but after seeing some of the trailers before the main presentation (and ear-shatteringly loud ones at that) I turned to Kat’s friend Bob, who was sitting next to me, and asked: “Don’t they make movies for grownups anymore?”
One particular thing about the Get Smart movie that might have made it a bit more entertaining is if the writers had thought to adopt the original TV series’ seamless blend of lampoon and slapstick. Despite its silliness, the TV version presented some of the sharpest satire on the tube at that particular time; in essence, its creators (Mel Brooks and Buck Henry) told us: “You know how you’re banking on your government and its affiliated agencies to protect you and provide security in this country? Well, brother—have you backed the wrong horse!” That’s one of the reasons why Get Smart—though admittedly somewhat dated due to its time period and goofy catchphrases—still resonates with fans today: its central message is that bureaucracies are powerless to supply anything resembling peace of mind…and questioning authority is never really a bad thing.
Did I like anything about the Get Smart movie? Well, I’ll take my chances crossing a busy intersection to watch Alan Arkin in anything and the two “Would you believe?” jokes made me laugh-out-loud (along with some of the in-jokes in Smart’s apartment during the opening credits); Anne Hathaway’s cute, and James Caan is always welcome (though it’s a shame somebody didn’t think of casting him as the son of “Rupert of Rathskeller” instead of letting him do a lame George W. Bush impression). (Plus there’s a cameo from a Get Smart regular that’s a real gut-buster.) If you’ve never seen the series (and this isn’t entirely beyond the realm of possibility: Bob’s wife confessed to him that she’d never seen a single episode), you’ll enjoy it a lot more than I did. But if you’re a fan…you might be looking at your watch, thinking about breaking out the Get Smart DVD box set when you get home. And…loving it!