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"Get Smart" Movie Remake: Sorry About That, Chief
June 19, 2008  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment


There are moments of the new Get Smart movie, which opens tonight at midnight, that are truly funny -- a sight gag here, a sly reference there, a perfectly delivered line of dialogue over there. And just before it ends, there's a cameo appearance that absolutely screams for a sequel.

But in the end, this movie remake of the classic Get Smart TV series -- and here's a line I'm betting will be used by at least a plurality of the movie critics reviewing the film -- missed it by that much.


The movie got some things right, so let's salute those first. It found a way to incorporate the now museum-dusty props from the 1965-70 TV show -- the shoephone, Maxwell Smart's red sports car -- by placing them in an actual CONTROL museum. It updated the multiple sliding doors gag to good effect, and made room for Bill Murray to make an uncredited appearance as an agent in disguise. And most of Don Adams' catch phrases as the original Secret Agent 86 -- "Sorry about that, chief," "Missed it by that much," "the old __________ trick") are present and accounted for.


The casting, too, is strong. Alan Arkin, as the new Chief, is dry and delightful, and earns the biggest laugh in the movie -- a profanity-laden reaction at the end of one chase scene. Anne Hathaway, as Agent 99, even wears a wig in one extended sequence (see top photo), just to approximate the mod look of Barbara Feldon circa 1966. She's stronger, more independent and less enamored of Max than in the original series -- more like Emma Peel than Agent 99 -- but the changes fit the character as well as the times, and Hathaway looks great.

Dwayne Johnson, as tough-guy Agent 23, brings less to the mix than Arkin or Hathaway, but that's as much a function of plot as character. And Steve Carell, as Max, plays him as -- well, as Steve Carell, basically. Nothing wrong with that. Instead, the problem with his character is the same problem that ultimately dilutes the movie: a lack of consistency.

In some scenes, Max is a bumbler (throwing the phone, throwing the grappling hook). In other scenes, he's comically adroit, flexible and accurate. In some scenes, he's naive or dumb. In others, he's sly and clever. And the film's producers, and director Peter Segal, chose not to present Get Smart as a straight spy spoof, in the mold of the Austin Powers or In Like Flint movies -- but as an action/comedy hybrid. There are extended chase and action scenes that are played not for laughs, but for suspense. But there isn't any.

At the end of Get Smart the movie, an actor shows up making a brief, unexpected appearance as Hymie the Robot, a beloved character from the original series. Just the sight of this actor (whose identity I'll keep secret, so you can enjoy it yourself) playing this part makes me hope the movie earns enough to launch a sequel, because a Hymie-Max-99 movie would be a vast improvement on this often awkward and inconsistent relaunch effort.

The filmmakers have the right core cast. Now all they have to do next time, if there is a next time, is trust the tone of the Buck Henry-Mel Brooks original series, and go for laughs all the way. The teen boys can get their cinematic action fix satisfied elsewhere... but what made Get Smart funny then works just as well now.




Jon Delfin said:

Buck Henry weeps.

By the way, it's Barbara Feldon, not Felton. (Bad typing. I'll correct. Thanks! -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 19, 2008 10:11 AM

Ken said:

Think the phrase is "Sorry 'bout that Chief" (No, Adams' diction was quite clear on most of his usage of that phrase. I'l stand by "about." And if there's a Canadian remake, I hope they don't say "aboot." -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 20, 2008 5:52 AM

Toby OB said:

Now you've got me curious to see it, but I've been burned too often by TV show remake movies to risk seeing it - especially in a Manhattan theatre where the price is a killer.

When they were announcing the casting for the movie, I couldn't figure why they weren't using Dwayne Johnson to play Hymie. I thought that would have been a natural choice. So this is where the curiousity factor comes in - finding out who does nab the role. (It's a really good choice... I'll discuss it Wednesday, if nobody else has revealed it beforehand. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 21, 2008 12:33 AM

Jackpot games said:

I haven't seen the original series, but I saw the movie and I loved it. I could not stop laughing, and now I want to watch the series. I noticed that you can watch it on Nickelodeon, so I will. (Enjoy! Let me know what you think of the original article. -- David B.)

Comment posted on July 4, 2008 3:25 PM

patrick said:

Get Smart looks okay overall, though Steve Carell seems to be veering more and more toward slapstick-style humor

Comment posted on July 10, 2008 5:31 AM

watch get smart movie said:

Get smart is a comedy action movie. I had seen this movie with my brother and we were laughing throughout the movie.

Comment posted on October 28, 2009 3:21 AM
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i totally enjoyed the original tv series GET SMART....as a child in the 70s my self i grew up watching alot of the ""old television shows and this one really did make a good family/comedy watching show for the 70's.
Apr 4, 2013   |  Reply
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