By Debbie Schlussel
New “Get Smart” is Great Continuation of Old “Get Smart”
As a longtime fan of “Get Smart,” I was dreading the new movie version. As a kid, I watched after school re-runs of the show in the late ’70s, after my Dad introduced me to the cult comedy classic that was one of his faves. The 1960s Mel Brooks/Buck Henry TV series parodied secret agent movies (like James Bond) during the Cold War and featured a forever screwing-up secret agent, Maxwell Smart, as its lead. I figured this would be yet another cool TV series that Hollywood ruined in a remake.
But happily, I was wrong about this latest silver screen incarnation. The movie is a great, updated, hilarious version of the ’60s TV show that plays fine tribute to Agents 86 and 99. In this version, 86 and 99 head to Europe to stop KAOS from its latest doomsday plot involving the development and use of nuclear weapons and its attempt to bomb Los Angeles and kill the President. The movie debuts in theaters on Friday.
I’m no fan of Steve Carell, but here, he does Don Adams proud in the movie, as does Anne Hathaway assuming Barbara Feldon’s role as the smart, sexy, feminine 99–though she’s somewhat more macho, doing karate kicks and other physical stuff. The other old characters are there, too: The Chief (well done by Alan Arkin), Agent Larrabee, Hymie the Robot–they’re all back.
Same for the KAOS v. CONTROL machinations, with KAOS chief, Conrad Siegfried and his top associate Shtarker. Even the old shoephone, the “cone of silence,” and the TV show’s catchy theme song make appearances. Max’s classic lines–“Missed it by that much” and “Would you believe . . .”–are also in there.
And there are some funny cameos–most notably Bill Murray. some conservatives may be offended by President James Caan’s caricature of George W. Bush. But it’s no lie that he can’t correctly pronounce “nuclear.” And there’s something in it for us, too. The best line in the movie is when the head of KAOS, Siegfried, is told by his portly consiglieri, Shtarker, that his plot to bomb Los Angeles would “kill all those movie stars.” Siegfried’s sarcastic response:
Yes, what will we do without their razor sharp political advice?
Another great update: Department of Homeland Security and CIA officials are portrayed as the usual buffoons that they are.
One difference from the old “Get Smart,” is that in this movie, Agent 99 is the experienced agent, and Maxwell Smart is just starting out. She’s sort of “the man” in this relationship–unfortunately an accurate update that reflects too much of today’s matriarchal society. We see Max go from analyst to agent. Hilarious is that he passes the agent test with flying colors, especially the essay on existentialism, which he left blank.
The movie is fun, light, escapist stuff that going to the movies is supposed to be about. Although it’s almost two hours, it goes by fast. Not all of the jokes succeed, but the majority of them do. Even the few groanworthy ones aren’t that groanworthy.
I could have done without Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, as new character, Agent 23. He added nothing to the movie. But the other new additions–including two geeky technology wiz types–added to the update of “Get Smart” from the shoe-phone of the ’60s to the cellphones, computers, lasers, and other gadgets of today.
Overall, it’s a funny and entertaining movie and far better than the terrible silver screen “Get Smart” flicks with Adams and Feldon–1980’s “The Nude Bomb” (minus Feldon) and 1988’s “Get Smart Again!” Carell was born to play this role.
One bit of advice, though: Don’t take young kids. There are a couple of suggestive situations and even a nude butt. Adams’ first “Get Smart” movie–the silly “The Nude Bomb”–featured a bomb that eliminated everyone’s clothes. So, this new movie is, in many ways, tame and far milder in comparison.
Exit question: Do you know agent 99’s real name? In one episode of the TV show, she says it’s “Susan Hilton,” but later implies that it really isn’t. Either way, it’s not revealed in this movie.