Sunday, June 22, 2008

Get Smart

I loved the old '60s show Get Smart. It was funny without being pandering, had slapstick without being over the top stupid, had incompetence that was still somehow believable within the internal world...furthermore, according to Peter Wright, former assistant director of MI6, in his autobiography Spycatcher: The Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer, 1987, it also gave MI6 ideas for some spy gadgets!
So when I heard the opening lines in the trailer, "Since time began there has been a struggle between Kaos and Control" I had plans to see the movie. As I saw more trailers I got less excited as it seemed to have gotten less and less of the series right. is Get Smart (2008) and missing it would be letting Kaos win. We can't have that.
The opening was classic in that the entrance followed the old series in form and feel. As Maxwell Smart (Steve Carrell) passed through
a series of modernized doors that closed in a variety of ways, he then approached a telephone booth to match the old entrance. As he entered, he passed a museum of Control items...all of which belonged to the Maxwell Smart played by Don Adams. This was a very nice touch and a nod to people who were seeing the movie because of Don Adams as opposed to some of the younger audience who might be drawn to the movie by Steve Carrell...or, truth be told, that certain percentage who might be drawn to the theatre not so much for nostalgia but rather to check out the new Agent 99, Anne Hathaway. As you can tell, she is not hard on the eyes...

"Agent 99" of course was one of the long-running jokes in the classic tv series as somehow, nobody ever realized someone who went by the name Agent 99 might be a spy.

As the movie develops it turns out the modern day Maxwell Smart is a frustrated field agent...despite having excellent field agent scores he is denied the promotion because he is such a good analyst. His competence in that field is all but irreplaceable. Meanwhile, rock star Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as 'the Rock') is out in the field kicking butt along with numerous other agents.

When virtually all Control agents are compromised Smart is finally promoted and given to Agent 99 as her partner, a move that frustrates her. The story moves along with Smart alternately committing incompetent bits of mayhem and brilliant bits of espionage. Along the way there are a hilarious dance off, numerous callbacks to the old show with lines like, "Missed it by....that much" and a great sequence where he tries to convince the Kaos agents they are surrounded by anything from an army regiment on down to his close-out line, "Would you believe Chuck Norris and a BB Gun?", an obvious reference to the ongoing cultural meme about Chuck Norris Facts.

Perhaps the best reference is his use of

the shoe phone. He had already done that earlier in the movie but after being arrested as a double agent, he made his escape. As part of his escape he stole the items from the Don Adams museum, including the old shoe phone. It was a very funny bit.
The story is surprisingly good. Though unquestionably it is primarily a Steve Carrell vehicle (a thankful choice after rumors that Jim Carrey had been tabbed back in '98...he would have wrecked it with horrific overacting and exaggerated facial expressions and vocal tics), it still brings us a nice story with a couple nice twists, though nothing too surprising, and there are numerous great jokes. The Kaos plot is bizarre and involved enough yet with silly enough elements to remind us of what made Get Smart great. The Cone of Silence makes and appearance, there are great action sequences, and at the end of the day we all walked out laughing and smiling.
I went in with low expectations and came out loving it. They nailed it.

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