Sorry about that, chief
Even by the standard of lazy TV remakes, Get Smart is dull stuff, yawns Donald Clarke GET SMART Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp, James Caan, Bill Murray
release, 110 min
12A cert, gen EVERY now and then you come across a film that is so incredibly underwhelming, it hardly seems worthwhile throwing facetious remarks at it.
This latest disinterment of an antediluvian sitcom is not quite the worst movie released this week (a Martin Lawrence catastrophe is, you will note, reviewed below) but it is certainly the most pointless, the most forgettable and the most ill-conceived. If it weren’t for the occasional sounds of yawning and head-scratching coming from patrons in neighbouring seats, the sensible filmgoer could be forgiven for not realising that celluloid is running through the projector. Get Smart is that indistinct, you see.
As centenarians will surely recall, the original Get Smart (1965-1970) followed a stupid secret agent as, assisted by a cleverer female operative, he sought to make a name for himself in the fight against the Soviet Bloc. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series, recast here with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, fired variable jokes at the viewer with the speed of a top-grade Uzi. If you didn’t like the first three gags, there would be another four along within a nanosecond.
Who knows what the producers thought they were up to with the big-screen translation? The story has been updated to the present day, but, unlike the passable Starsky and Hutch, this version doesn’t look very much like a pastiche. Nor have they attempted to fashion a proper, grown-up film in the manner of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice. Featuring vulgar displays of conspicuous location work – that’s enough panoramic views of Moscow, thank you – this non-movie oozes compromise and uncertainty from every pore.
The weirdest and most selfdefeating decisions concern the main character. Carell, whose career as a leading man is fast going the way of the Berlin Wall, has, in defiance of the ironic title, been asked to play a man who is not really all that stupid. He’s not really that clumsy either. He’s just an ordinary guy with slightly (slightly, mind) underdeveloped social skills. The glamorous Agent 99, acted with predictable icy distance by Hathaway, rapidly ceases to be a foil and turns into a genuine chum.
This Get Smart is, I suppose, less sexist, less broad and less cruel than its predecessor. Well, that’s no fun at all. If I want a sensitive, realistic portrayal of the secret agent’s life I’ll read a John le Carré novel.
Somnolent secret agents: Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell in Get Smart