- No hocus pocus: Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell lift Get Smart with acting chops.
*Get Smart (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
The Mel Brooks/Buck Henry-created 1960s TV series Get Smart predates this reviewer and, in all likelihood, this film's target audience as well. But the breezy summer confection isn't any less enjoyable just because we're not totally in on the joke.
Updated for the 21st century by director Peter Segal, a veteran of several Adam Sandler vehicles, this action-comedy hybrid is a perfect fit for Steve Carell, who ably fills Don Adams' shoes (phone included) and saves Get Smart from being stupid.
Carell plays Maxwell Smart, an eager information analyst for U.S. spy agency CONTROL. Max longs to be a field agent but is rebuffed by The Chief (Alan Arkin), who prefers Max stay in the office and leave the heroics to Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).
When CONTROL is compromised by rival agency KAOS (the result of a disappointingly off-screen attack on its headquarters), The Chief is forced to press Max into action, pairing him with the foxy-but-fatal Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). They team up to find mastermind-in-his-own-mind Siegfried (Terence Stamp), recover the stolen identities of CONTROL's secret agents, and uncover a KAOS mole within the ranks.
A film like this can live or die based on its performances, and while no one jumps off the screen, thankfully there isn't a weak link in the cast.
Though some critics will complain that Carell is no Don Adams, he makes the role his own. He plays Max as bumbling but never inept, and the script takes advantage of Carell's knack for physical comedy. Meanwhile, Hathaway proves herself a reliable comic foil, and despite an age gap and a slightly forced romantic subplot, the two display impressive chemistry as they try to one-up each other in a series of mini-missions.
The leads are supported by a gifted comic ensemble led by The Rock, who is actually becoming a charming movie star. While he never gets the chance to truly shine, he makes the most of the material he's given, holding his own with more experienced funnymen such as David Koechner and Terry Crews.
Elsewhere, Masi Oka and Nate Torrence show up as CONTROL's gadget gurus, and a DVD built around their characters is being released in conjunction with the feature film. Ken Davitian (Borat) makes every line count as Siegfried's sidekick Shtarker, and hulking henchman Dalip Singh makes a "strong" if silent impression. Even Bill Murray and Patrick Warburton show up for memorable cameos.
Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember's screenplay is hit-and-miss, but for every joke that falls flat, two hit their mark, and the nonstop action distracts from the humor gaps. Some references to the series will fly over younger viewers' heads, but older audiences will welcome the nostalgic touches.
If you've seen the trailers for the film, Get Smart delivers exactly what it promises a popcorn flick with a strong combination of laughs and action. There's a constant silliness to the proceedings, and some parts (including a rousing finale set to "Ode to Joy") work better than others.
But on the whole, Get Smart is a highly entertaining two-hour diversion for a hot summer afternoon.