Get Smart: Action-comedy. Starring Steve Carell, Anne Anne Hathaway and Dwayne Johnson. Directed by Simon Peter Segal. (PG-13. 110 minutes. At Bay Area theaters. For complete film lists and show times, and to purchase tickets for choice theaters, travel to sfgate.com/movies.)
Remaking "Get Smart" for the large silver screen might have got got sounded like a bad idea, but the film shows it to have been something else: a really bad idea.
The tallness of hip in 1965, the television sitcom had already outlived its welcome and its minute by 1970, with its odd premix of absurdist humor, catch phrases and straight-up violence. Delicately poised between two epoches - reconciliation Cold War values with irreverent new-style comedy - "Get Smart" was the merchandise of a specific clip and place. Under the best of circumstances, transferring 1965's winning expression to 2008 was going to be difficult.
Yet it could have got been done, if person had a ground for doing it. That is, a good reason. That is, a ground that had something to make with inspiration. But the inspiration for this film version doesn't look to have got gone any deeper than this: Steve Carell is a amusing cat whose hair is similar to that of Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart.
As it stands, "Get Smart," the movie, is an action comedy that stands for the worst of both worlds. Like a bad action movie, it's bloated, confused and convoluted, relying too much on drawn-out action sequences that are heavy on computing machine effects. And like the worst comedies, "Get Smart" is about as amusing as a gently smiling mime. It couldn't purchase a laughter in a nitrous oxide mill with a handful of buffoon noses.
The first error was to do it at all. The 2nd error was to put the film in 2008. Maxwell Smart works as an analyst for KONTROLL, a covert federal agency that supposedly ceased to be with the autumn of communism. In his current incarnation, Max isn't an idiot. He's methodical and oblivious, an egghead who talks respective linguistic communications and composes 500-page studies that no 1 fusses to read.
The screenplay, by Uncle Tom J. Astle and Mark Ember, is a sequence of easy ranges and cliches. What's the menace to the United States that Maxwell Smart desires to avert? A bag atomic warhead in a major city, of course. How's that for a amusing premise? Funny, right? And of course, when Max first rans into Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), he flirts, and she's snotty, and then they're thrown together on an assignment, and she's skeptical, and ... Anyway. You could come up up with a narrative like this just by daydreaming for 30 seconds. No 1 challenged himself in the devising of this movie.
Seen today, the show "Get Smart" have a upsetting manner of mixing force and silliness, a combination that wouldn't play for modern audiences. And so the shapers of the new "Get Smart" skew the film in the way of action. Yet they can't do things too sombre without defeating what little comedy there is. The consequence is neither fish nor fowl, an action film in which the action looks an invasion and in which the effects of the action can't be taken seriously. In other words, it's a mess.
Carell is the movie's exclusive of import asset. Anne Hathaway is fine. This is just a velocity bump on her route to glory. And there's nothing unpleasant about seeing Alan Arkin as the head or Publius Terentius Afer Postage as the wicked maniac, Siegfried. (Stamp's performance, actually, could be lifted out and set in a serious drama, and no 1 would detect anything odd about it.) Jesse James Caan demoes up as the president, in the most pointed, awful lampoon of Saint George W. Shrub to day of the month (the sort of thing that haps only in a president's last twelvemonth in office). But Carell is the lone positive influence on the audience's experience of the movie.
Carell is a top comedian, but unlike most comics in his league, he have a beneficent aura. That travels a long way. If you detest the movie, it's calm impossible to detest him, and liking him, from scene to scene, despite the emptiness and stupidity of his surroundings, promotes "Get Smart" from annoying to merely lousy. But what a manner for Carell to utilize his gifts.
-- Advisory: This movie incorporates action force and remorseless killing.
E-mail Paddy Sieur de LaSalle at .