You know when you're tired, cranky, and hungry right around mid-afternoon and you know you should just gnaw on the baby carrots you put in the office fridge during a fit of optimism but all you want to do is grab the Ho-Hos (or in my case, those Tag-a-Long Girl Scout cookies) in your top drawer and stuff your face? And then sometimes you decide to stuff your face and it's insanely satisfying (if only temporarily)? That's what my experience of watching Get Smart was like. This was one week when I needed a good, lighthearted laugh and in that sense, Get Smart is the perfect thing. It's obviously not high art and it's not even really clever as far as comedies go. It's just fun. I watched, I laughed, I went home happy.
Steve Carell resurrects Maxwell Smart, the main character from the 1960s TV series on which this movie is based. Smart only becomes a secret agent for the spy organization CONTROL when The Chief (Alan Arkin) needs more people on his team after their offices have been attacked by nemesis spy team, KAOS. Now deemed Agent 86, Smart is paired up with the intelligent, accomplished Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and, together with The Chief and the outrageously manly Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), the CONTROL operatives struggle to stop KAOS from carrying out their plans of mass murder and world domination. Other CONTROL duos like Agent 91 (Terry Crews) and Larabee (David Koechner, who I wish had been recast with Rob Corddry), and the young geek team Bruce (Masi Oka) and Lloyd (Nate Torrence) provide additional laughs when necessary. To find out what I liked best about the movie, read more.
One of the best things about this movie is that the humor comes in quick, brief spurts as the plotline trots gamely along. So often the complaint with things that "should be funny, but aren't" is that the gags go on for too dang long. This is not a problem in Get Smart, and I seriously appreciate it. In a similar vein, with the exception of Carell, no one actor is used for so long that we start to tire of them. Each person does what he or she does best and then gets out of the way.
For example, as much as I like Alan Arkin as an actor, I'm glad he's not in the movie more than he is, and the same goes for Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson who, I'm convinced, was born to have roles like these. His good looks and overt masculinity are played for laughs, but this schtick is doled out in moderation. As much as I enjoy looking at him (and I truly love looking at him), I wonder if instead of carrying entire movies on his own, he should have smaller roles like these in a variety of different projects. I'd like to see that.
As for the guy carrying this movie, Carell's Maxwell Smart is not too different from his alter-ego on The Office, Michael Scott. Carell rarely strays too far from his Michael Scott-style naivete, but then again, Carell is often a pleasantly restrained actor. While I've seen episodes of the original Get Smart series, I don't have such an attachment that I have any specific feelings about the transition from little screen to big screen. At first Anne Hathaway seemed an unlikely choice as Agent 99, but there's an explanation for why she seems so much younger than Agent 86, and she's capable enough in the role. Overall, I think Maxwell Smart — especially as played by Carell — works well in a modern-day movie, and the director makes several clear nods to the original show.
An older gentleman at my screening said he didn't like the movie and thought it was "stupid," which I can understand, but maybe it's because I've also seen The Love Guru and I know what extremely stupid looks like (more on that here) that I can appreciate something that's neither mentally taxing nor insultingly dumb on every possible level. Also, this man told me he doesn't watch The Office, and I think there are simply some people who enjoy that humor and some who don't. I don't presume everyone will like this movie. It's not super intelligent and it's not Apatow-crass — it's just plain silly. But if you're brain's fried and you've had a long week, it might be just the cure, if only temporarily.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.