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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

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

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