On the Aisle
By Tony Macklin
What do dithering tv weathermen do when they retire? They must take their lame, witless banter and their awkward timing to Hollywood to write and direct movies. That might explain Get Smart, one of the latest in a long line of humid, mediocre, tired comedies.
The script for Get Smart is like so many splotches on a weathermap. Its direction is as thin as a weather pointer.
Get Smart, originally a TV series which spoofed the Cold War era, was the bastard brainchild of Mel Brooks and writer Buck Henry, two off-the-map creative personalities. It was shtik embodied in the person of Don Adams, but it was also nutty parody. It was one-dimensional, but it was also one of a kind.
The recent movie adaptation of Get Smart is assembly line dreck with not a whit of creativity or originality.
Based flaccidly on the TV series, Get Smart resurrects the bodies of the old series without breathing any life into them. It’s the story of how Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is transformed from a CONTROL analyst into a field agent, when the headquarters of CONTROL are attacked, and their agents in the field are decimated.
Joining with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), Smart goes to Russia and back on a quest against KAOS.
The story is disjointed and plodding, punctuated by action stunts that have no resemblance to the spirit of the old series. Get Smart hasn’t been updated, it’s been mummified.
I like Steve Carell, — who doesn’t? — but his interpretation of Maxwell Smart has no core. Carell is like Harold Lloyd playing Maxwell Smart, likable but bland.
TV’s Stephen Colbert might make a worthy Max. Carell, as good an actor as he can be, is more cipher than character as Max. I never thought I’d miss Don Adams. Where Adams’s Max was obnoxious, Carell’s Max is merely innocuous. Adams had an antic edge; Carell is edgeless. Carell’s Max yells a lot and casts wild glances, but ittle else. Carell’s persona is Mr. Nice Guy – hardly Max Smart.
What’s next for Carell — Deputy Barney Fife without neurosis?
The entire cast of Get Smart is vastly superior to the material with which they’re burdened. Alan Arkin (The Chief) and Terence Stamp (Sigfried) are first-rate actors. Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Anne Hathaway are very personable people. But they’re all wasted. The blame falls to clunky director Peter Segal, whose previous movies include 50 First Dates (2005), The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (2000), and Anger Management (2003), which is one of Jack Nicholson’s worst movies. Segal also helmed the remake of The Longest Yard (2005).
Anyone who would remake The Longest Yard should run for President on the Republican ticket. Segal’s talent is… he has none.
There is a bevy of fat jokes and bathroom jokes. Comparing a Segal urination scene to Brooks’s campfire scene in Blazing Saddles (1974) shows how feeble Segal is. Segal is awful at physical comedy. Pratfalls don’t
work; slapstick flops.
When Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) makes his initial entrance, he snatches a bug out of the air and tosses it in a waste can. Funny? Not at all. But it’s the best they could come up with.
Get Smart is a reflex comedy. It’s for those who laugh because something is supposed to be funny; it’s for those who laugh before they hear the joke. If one waits to hear or see the would-be joke, not funny. There’s more wit in ten seconds of TV’s Two and a Half Men than there is in the entirety of Get Smart.
Segal is joined in the remainder room of comedy by two veteran TV sitcom writers, Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. They wrote Failure to Launch (2006). Now they’re in the system to further mediocrity with impunity.
The clueless duo also wrote the 72-minute companion movie to Get Smart entitled Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control, which had a shorter life than the moribund Get Smart. It went directly to DVD.
If ever there was a movie which people did for the money, it is Get Smart. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but a movie has to be more than an idea.
I doubt whether the makers of Get Smart have enough insight to know they blew it. They now have another credit on their resume, which means they’ll keep on botching comedy.
The makers of Get Smart treat comedy as a commodity. Engaging leading man? Check. A name supporting cast? Check.
Script by TV sitcom veterans? Check.
Direction by a monkey who somehow has acquired credits?
Check. Check. Check.