Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get Smart Is Laughable

I was hoping that the new "Get Smart" movie would be okay. I was prepared to be disappointed. But I wasn't. I was delightfully surprised. It was great. The movie is laugh out loud funny. For once, the best bits aren't all in the trailer leaving you with the feeling that you'd already seen all the funny parts. The audience even applauded at the end. A sure sign that everyone enjoyed it. I saw the first "Get Smart" movie and this is much better.

It is played straighter than the TV series. I'd say that one of the strengths of this movie is that it is based on the series without trying to recreate it. The movie can stand on its own. People get shot, knifed, and beat up and they bleed. The violence is more realistic and the stunts more harrowing. Homage is given to the series without going overboard. There are cameos by Bernie Koppel, the original Siegfried; the cone of silence; the telephone booth; Hymie, the robot agent; the red Sunbeam; the blue VW Karmann Ghia; the gold Opel; and the shoe phone. See, Smart Cars None of these touches seem out of place and are woven into the story. Bill Murray must be a fan of "Get Smart" because he has a cameo as the lonely Agent 13 who plays a Larabee like role. Larabee is in this movie, but he never shows up in a mailbox or a trash can. In fact, the movie Larabee is a jerk and doesn't seem to be a friend of Max.

The one thing I missed was the chemistry between Max and Agent 99. Unfortunately, they aren't a couple for most of the movie. They might as well have subtitled the movie "When Max Met 99." You might even classify this as a prequel. The movie provides Max's backstory. He's a first rate overly detailed analyst for CONTROL who is dying to be a field agent. When the movie begins, he and 99 haven't met yet although he's heard of her.

When I saw the trailers, I thought the casting was inspired and it is. Like every little boy in the '60s I had a thing for Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. She was everything a girlfriend ought to be pretty, witty, supportive, gorgeous .... Anne Hathaway wasn't even born yet so she's way too young for me. That's too bad because she has never looked better. She's hotter than ever as the svelte, coolly competent, kick butt 99. When she dons an Agent 99 wig for part of the movie, she could be Barbara Feldon's even better looking daughter. I thought she'd be perfect as 99 and she is.

Steve Carell doesn't look particularly like Don Adams but he does great job. He doesn't come off as someone who is trying to do a Don Adams impression even when he utters the trademark line "Missed it by that much." It isn't quite as funny when he does it. He lacks that wryly nasal Don Adams tone to his voice. His Maxwell Smart is actually very smart and perceptive and just a bit more competent than the TV Max, but not too competent. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson even does a good job as the hunky Agent 23. Alan Arkin is a great choice for The Chief. Terence Stamp is a much more menacing and evil Seigfried than Bernie Koppell ever was. There's very little funny about him. An enormous KAOS assassin bears an uncanny resemblance to Richard Kiel, who was Jaws in Moonraker and other Bond movies. He's apparently no relation though as he is professional wrestler Dilip Singh from India. James Caan plays a Bush-like U.S. president whose vice-president runs the show.

I really enjoyed this movie. Even my wife was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and the kids loved it. Speaking of children, a word for the wise --- this movie deserves its PG-13 rating. In addition to the violence, there are frequent uses of the "s word", sexual comedy (including some based on gay sex), one obscene hand gesture, and some nudity. I wouldn't take elementary age or younger children. But I do recommend that you see this movie. At the end, look for the misspelling of the word Cessna in the credits as they roll.

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