GET SMART: DUMB FUN
published June 20,
now playing nationwide
Smart is dumb fun. It falls in the category of “better than it has any right
being.” It’s a seemingly crummy idea, turning Mel Brooks’ sixties spy spoof show into a modern-day action comedy, but they made this sucker
about as well as they could. The handful of big laughs pilots you through the merely smile-inducing. It’s the type of film that critics will
hate to admit laughing at. Likely some will pretend that they didn’t.
Much of it relies on Steve Carell’s comic
magnetism and masochism. Who else would you want to see bury blow darts into his face, like an adventure in acupuncture? Or eavesdrop on a
Russian conversation in a Siberian loo between trickles? Or plant a big masculine moneymaker on The Rock? Carell plays Maxwell Smart as a
brilliant office dweeb (huh?) turned inept emergency field agent – a spy-game idiot savant. There’s no bumbling that he can’t think his way
out of. And no think his way out of that he can’t bumble back into again.
Smart is blatant
Hollywood summer flubber, and subject to its most poisonous demands. It stumbles out of the gate as well as to the finish. It ends with a
balls-out action piece that’s too eager to lose the comic tone found in the film’s earlier and better set pieces. In those, a strong
one-upmanship chemistry exists between Carell and Anne Hathaway’s tomboyish expert, Agent 99. She’s the straight woman with a straight right.
He’s the punch line and punching bag. The plot, a mission across Russia to flout a fiendish KAOS nuclear plot, stockpiles clever low humor like
processed uranium. Even the eggheads get tossed a witty line about existentialism. Everyone gets a bone.
Hathaway drops her Hollywood good girl
image for a more vulpine attitude. Her tall, lean athleticism shouldn’t dim the Audrey Hepburn comparisons. The Rock as Max’s idol, the heart
throb Agent 23, gets to do what the musclehead does best – comedy. One day, some enterprising filmmaker will write him a great supporting
role, and we’ll be at risk of giving him an Oscar. Carell gets, and takes, a chance to erase some of the pungent memories of last year’s
jillion-dollar nautical disaster, Evan Almighty. More humor. Less beard.
When you throw in a scene-stealing Alan
Arkin (the plastic-swordfish-through-the-windshield gag from the last trailer really is piercing), this is a cast you would like to see in
more fruitful material. Carell and Hathaway should do a Nick-and-Nora update, if just to enjoy the looks of horror on the faces of overly
serious cineastes when they hear about it.
I suspect that Don Adams dead-enders will
find things to nitpick. But they’ve been waiting for this film since the Tet Offensive. If you come into contact with someone telling you how
brilliantly and satirically the show captures the sixties zeitgeist, slowly roll up the car window. They won’t attack unless
The best way to measure a film like
Get Smart is by voting with your lips. I left with a dopey grin on my face. I suspect many of you
will, too. It should last at least until the next mindless entertainment distraction.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com