Cinema review: Get Smart

August 26 2008 at 9:26 pm (Cinema reviews)

Remember I Spy? You know, the ‘60s American espionage comedy series with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby? No? Well, how about the 2002 big screen adaptation with Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy? Still nothing? The reason is that the source material was so unknown (in this country at least) and generic that the adaptation had neither nostalgic value nor originality. The same is true of Get Smart.

Based on a 1960s TV series, Get Smart is the story of Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), a hapless analyst in top secret spy agency CONTROL. Smart dreams of being a field operative and finally gets his wish when CONTROL’s headquarters are attacked by their arch-enemies KAOS. Most agents are killed leaving Smart and Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to find and defeat KAOS leader Siegfried (Terence Stamp).

It’s quite good throwaway fun but it’s littered with problems. First of all, the protagonist isn’t very well drawn. Maxwell Smart is too inept to be James Bond and too suave to be Frank Drebin leaving him in a kind of in-between role where his pratfalls are punctuated by moments of genius.

For a film so lightweight, it’s far too long and suffers from a formulaic plot complete with a twist so obvious that you barely even notice it happening. Despite some good jokes (especially a botched escape from a plane mid-flight and a hilarious incident with a stapler) the film is so much less than the sum of its parts.

The brilliant Steve Carell, of course, carries the film but he’s better than this. Although she kicks ass, the long-legged, big-lipped Anne Hathaway looks like a cut-price Angelina Jolie. Dwayne Johnson, now completely jettisoning his wrestling moniker, provides solid support as does the nice little appearance of Masi Oka of TV’s Heroes. Alan Arkin gets to do very little while Terence Stamp is simply rubbish.

The film plods along without knowing really where it’s going leaving a film so entirely forgettable that you start forgetting it before the credits even start rolling. There is good use of gadgets, including a shoe phone (apparently a mainstay of the original series) and a customised Swiss army knife, which are obviously inspired by 007, but they only highlight the laziness in spoofing espionage thrillers.

From Austin Powers to Johnny English, Bond spoofs have become so ubiquitous that they’re almost a genre in their own right. While Get Smart doesn’t play the parody card too hard, it’s an unremarkable copy-and-paste affair that outstays its welcome.

Rating: 2/5


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