DVD Release Date:  November 4, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  June 20, 2008
Rating:  PG-13 (for some rude humor, action violence and language)
Genre:  Comedy, Thriller, Adaptation
Run Time:  1 hr. 50 min.
Director:  Peter Segal
Actors:  Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Terence Stamp, Alan Arkin

Hollywood loves its nostalgia, as does apparently much of America’s film-going audience. It seems like a vast number of movies made in recent years are remakes and sequels rather than new ideas. More often than not, these remakes leave us wishing the "remakers" hadn't bothered.

Television from the 1970s provides great fodder for comedic-minded screenwriters. The latest effort, Get Smart, is based on a popular spy spoof television show that pitted the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart of CONTROL, against the criminal organization KAOS. The show’s shtick? Max blundered through the motions of secret agent work as a self-assured moron, and managed to thwart the evil plans of KAOS week after week!—more from the help of those around him than his own efforts.

Surprisingly, the filmmakers set themselves apart from the typical 1970s “television to film” retread by creating a truly hilarious film, one that updates the spy spoof without the typical comedic contempt. Get Smart is the near perfect blend of physical comedy, goofy jokes, and witty repartee.

In our updated Get Smart, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), is an earnest analyst for the super secret U.S. government spy agency. Max desperately wants to be a field agent, but his boss “The Chief” (Alan Arkin) needs his skills at headquarters and says no. When terrorist organization KAOS infiltrates CONTROL, compromising the secret identity of all CONTROL agents, analyst Max gets his break. He is partnered with the beautiful and competent “Agent 99” (Anne Hathaway), whose identity is still safe due to recent plastic surgery. The two are sent traipsing across Russia to locate KAOS stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

At this point the thin plot of the film becomes irrelevant, as we see Max and 99 in and out of ridiculous setups. Fortunately the writing is funny enough that we don’t really care.  Get Smart has a goofy slapstick tone, which never quite becomes overbearing or absurd like many films of this genre.

Much of the film’s successful tenor is due to the great talent of lead Steve Carell. He’s delightfully funny as the slightly befuddled yet competent Max, and avoids the snarky arrogance that original Max, Don Adams, brought to the role. It makes up for Anne Hathaway’s slightly awkward portrayal of Agent 99. The two are hilarious as action buddies, but there is certainly a lack of chemistry between them in the romance department. Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shows his brilliant comedic timing as the “rock star” Agent 23 and former love interest of Agent 99. It’s a shame he doesn’t get more screen time as the sidelined super agent now dealing with surly officemates and jammed copy machines. Alan Arkin brings nothing new to his performance as “The Chief,” but is rewarded with some of the film’s funniest lines.

Perhaps it’s easiest to describe Get Smart by explaining what it’s not. It’s not a randy parody like the Austin Powers spy movie send-ups. It doesn’t make a mockery of its 1970s era source material like recent remakes of The Dukes of Hazzard or Starsky and Hutch. It’s not a complete spoof like Leslie Nielson’s Naked Gun films. And it certainly doesn’t follow in the path of Judd Apatow and his troupe of filmmaking friends, where humor seems to be judged by how gratuitously crude subject matter is presented.