Get Smart (2008)

Like so many movies adapted from vintage TV shows, *Get Smart* is meant to evoke just enough nostalgia to get moviegoers into the seats with some vaguely remembered sense of having found the TV show mildly diverting once upon a time. *Get Smart* accomplishes that much, but takes enough liberties with the mid-60s, Cold War era spy sitcom (created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry) to buff up the veneer and make it mildly diverting for the masses who don't remember the sixties, either because they lived through them, or because they were born long after them.

As mildly diverting entertainments go, *Get Smart* is, well, rather mild. The bumbling Maxwell Smart, the role originated by Don Adams, becomes, as played by Steve Carell, the dull but quite competent analyst who longs to be a field agent. Carell's Smart, aka Agent 86, is actually smart, and he has allies among the eggheads (Masi Oka and Nate Torrance) of CONTROL, the super secret government spy agency that employs him. Carell plays Smart straight, unlike the stand up comedian Adams, who read every line like he was waiting for a rimshot. Carell's deadpan melancholy rubs the rough edges off the character -- he's a sincere guy, and a better spy than anyone knows, and has a backstory -- he used to be a fatty -- that explains why he's not as confident or smooth as super suave spy guy Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson). He's also got a pretty partner in super competent Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, in the role originated by Barbara Feldon). Back in the day, there was a bit of feminist humor in the fact that 99 was always a much better spy than her male counterpart. That angle has definitely lost its acuteness, so the new *Get Smart* features a soggy romance between 86 and 99 that serves the plot, but not much else.

The movie, penned by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, features a plot with a few contempo details like a dim-bulb president (James Caan) who can't pronounce "nuclear," a nasty vice president, and some business involving yellowcake uranium. Terrence Stamp turns up as a vaguely European, vaguely menacing villain named Siegfried, who heads up the terrorist agency KAOS and employs a vaguely ethnic-looking giant (Dalip Singh) as a henchmen. 86 and 99 traipse about the former Soviet Union looking for Siegfried, fighting off the giant, jumping out of airplanes, blowing things up, and doing secret agent stuff like driving sports cars and crashing black tie parties. There's a touch of slapstick, a bit of farce, and a smidge of satire in *Get Smart*, but the laughs are really pretty tame and inoffensive. Tame and inoffensive are somewhat odd qualities for either a spy movie or a comedy, and it's not exactly the perfect combo for a spy comedy either. There's nothing particularly bad about *Get Smart*, and it meets the minimum requirements for movie entertainment: it's a competent film with a serviceable plot and an appealing cast. That it's rather bland and unsurprising and not all that smart is, I suppose, beside the point, since it isn't aiming for much more than the minimum.