Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Steve Carell, Anne
Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp, James Caan
Director: Peter Segal
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: November 4, 2008
“I think it's only fair to warn you, this facility is surrounded by a highly trained team of 130 black op snipers.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Would you believe two dozen Delta Force commandos?”
“How bout Chuck Norris with a BB gun?”
I must admit that I had very low expectations going into Get Smart. All the ads and trailers I saw delivered few laughs, not to mention the fact that classic TV sitcoms rarely succeed in big screen translations. So I was stunned beyond belief at how hard I laughed, as well as the enormous entertainment value the movie has to offer.
The movie is, of course, an updated version of the classic spy-spoof television series from the 1960s that was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It followed the misadventures of bumbling agent Maxwell Smart, then played the by the future voice of Inspector Gadget himself, Don Adams. It was perhaps the first attempt at spoofing the James Bond franchise, and though I’ve seen only a few episodes, I can certainly say that the movie version is one of the funniest spy spoofs I’ve ever seen.
And Brooks himself reportedly announced his love for the movie following its debut screening…so that’s gotta be a great sign!
One of the many triumphs of this big screen update is the absolutely perfect casting of Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. I can’t honestly think of another comedic actor who would’ve been more perfect for the role just by mention of the name. Then after seeing the movie, you realize that no else BUT Carell could’ve pulled it off. He is simply flawless in the role.
The plot starts off with Maxwell, working of course for ultra secret agency CONTROL, getting a promotion from information analyst to field agent…Agent 86 to be exact. His boss, The Chief (Alan Arkin) pairs him up with the luminous Agent 99 (the ever so luminous Anne Hathaway) for a crucial first assignment. The mission: to thwart the plans of the diabolical Siegfried (Terrence Stamp), representing the villainous agency known as KAOS.
Plot-wise, that’s basically all there is. And in this case, that’s not a bad thing because Get Smart happens to be wall-to-wall with hysterical laughs balanced out with some truly impressive action sequences, which is another amazing surprise about the movie. Action in comedies of this type tend to be executed poorly, but the filmmakers clearly took advantage of the big budget and managed to craft some thrilling moments that are actually on par with scenes out of most Bond movies.
In addition to Carell’s superb and effortless charm, the supporting cast is across the boards terrific. Having had a long time crush on Ms. Hathaway, I can honestly say that she has never been more beautiful to look at on screen. Her chemistry with Carell is one of the biggest delights in the movie. Maxwell prefers brains over muscle, while 99 prefers the opposite, resulting is a most funny byplay between the two. No other moment in the movie illustrates this perfectly than a ballroom dance scene, which I’ll leave for you to see. And in a scene where she suspiciously asks Maxwell, “Are you staring at my butt?”, Carell delivers a response that, quite honestly, I would’ve probably said myself.
And I haven’t even mentioned the comedic turn of Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as The Rock) as the star agent of CONTROL, Agent 23. Johnson has proven himself to be a surprisingly versatile actor, and demonstrates here that he definitely has some superb comedic chops. His introductory scene is worth the price of admission alone.
Then in another stroke of the film’s genius casting, we have Alan Arkin as The Chief. Calm, cool and every so often delivering that one-of-a-kind deadpan delivery he’s known for, Arkin delivers many of the movie’s funniest lines. His encounter with a fake swordfish during the climatic chase scene produced one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in quite some time.
The whole movie, for me, is such a success that I am surprised to say that I’m very much in favor of a continuing series of films, which the movie slightly hints at in the end. With a cast like this and endless spy plotlines to rip from the Bond series, the work is already half done for future Get Smart adventures. It’s fun to get a surprise every so often at the movies, and this is indeed one of them.
BONUS: Look out for Bill Murray and a number of other familiar faces in bit roles throughout the movie.
Action brings out the best in 1080p, and the comical but big sequences in Get Smart are fun to watch and amazing to look at. The clarity and contrast, even in higher speed situations, is remarkable, as is the natural looking coloring and the crispness of detail in all levels of lighting.
Curious as to why there isn't a lossless audio track on this Blu-ray disc, but no matter...the 5.1 delivers the goods, thanks again to the action sequences and stunts, which utilize the front and rear stages to impressive advantage. Dialogue is cleanly rendered, and dynamic range is fairly strong.
This Blu-ray contains all the extras of the double disc DVD release and more, starting with the amusing alternate viewing option called the “Comedy Optimization Mode”. This viewing option comes equipped with up to 20 minutes worth of alternative jokes. There are also the featurettes “The Right Agent for the Right Job”, “Max in Moscow!”, “Language Lessons”, plus a "Vomit Reel" (yikes) and a look at the on-screen references to the classic TV show. Also featured is a gag reel known as “Spy Confidential”, as well as a Sneak Peak into the making of the straight-to-DVD spin off movie Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control. Lastly, a Digital Copy of the movie is also included, as is a special DVD KAOS Control game.
Get Smart is one truly dynamic action/comedy package, and one that doesn’t have to try hard in either department. Steve Carell and the rest of the cast are on top of their game. The movie is really a gem in the realm of the spy movie spoofs, and it’s one that I honestly think anyone and everyone will enjoy!