Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not Smart Enough

Another one off the L.A. Library shelves.

Get Smart (2008)

The original Get Smart is one of those great TV shows that ended up not just successful, but burned itself into the public’s consciousness that its lead actors, especially Don Adams as Maxwell Smart were typecast. They were always seen as those specific characters (see Adam West as Batman), and the public often could not see any other actors playing those parts.

But along comes the perfect casting of Steve Carell as Max. Carell has become such a gifted comic actor over the last 10 years that you knew he would not simply imitate Adams, but make a new Maxwell Smart from a similar mold (the same with Anne Hathaway taking over as Agent 99 from Barbara Feldon). What a terrific casting coup with these two. Add in the great Alan Arkin as the Chief and the comedic chops of Dwayne (formerly The Rock) Johnson and you got a fun movie. Hopefully.

When it was announced that Carell would be the new Max I was immediately interested, and hoped the script and directing would live up to his casting. They really don’t. It’s not a godawful piece of corporate shit like so much stuff out there, especially the TV to features remakes. It’s just there. Who really cares about the plot? You just have to know that it’s Max and the forces of CONTROL battling Siegfried and KAOS. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created the original TV show, so you need a top flight writer to follow in their giant foot steps. They got a guy who wrote for Coach and another who wrote for The Wayans Brothers show. Yeah. I'll let that sink in.

There are some moments that are pretty funny, like when Max parts the beaded curtains and they all fall to the floor, or when Max tries to throw a corded phone as a weapon only to have it spring back before hitting the enemy. Carell really had his comic timing perfect in those two gags, reminding the viewer (or at least those old enough to remember) of classic Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau gags. The rest of the movie seemed to just set up Carell so that he could use a classic Don Adams’ Smart line, like “missed it by that much” or “would you believe….” Or worse, they concentrate too much on the action scenes. When are they ever going to get it that in a comedy, people want to remember the characters and the funny lines and situations, they will NEVER say “that action scene with the Cessna airplane and the train was so thrilling.” Watch Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies if you want to see action done for LAUGHS in a comedy, not thrills and chills.

This movie has a great cast, top notch production design, decent music and effects, but at the end of the day (or the end of the movie) you really won’t remember a thing. Other than the original Get Smart at its best was one of the funniest shows ever (hey, from Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, you wouldn’t expect any less).

Now if you’re saying Mel and Buck Who, Peter Sellars and Blake Edwards, who were they? You better start watching and reading some better material.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that the two most memorable comic beats from Carrell in the movie are the throwing the phone and beaded curtain bits. He's practically channeling Peter Sellers in those moments. They are also the two, and only two, funny moments featured prominantly in the trailer and commercials.

    Like you say, it's a pity the rest of the movie didn't live up to those moments. I think part of the problem may be in adapting sitcom fare for theatrical presentation. "The Nude Bomb" was pretty terrible from what little I remember of it. Although its IMDB rating isn't very high "Get Smart Again" was very much in keeping with the style and humor of the show and was very funny. I'm not saying that a sitcom can't be successfully adapted into a movie--it's just very hard to do. It just got sadder when they remade the series yet again with Andy Dick (!) as Maxwell Smart jr. A fact that I had blissfully forgotten until researching the movie...