Moscow vs Hollywood

Get Smart

get_smart_ver4

Director: Peter Segal

Cast: Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Terry Crews, Terence Stamp

Review originally published in July 2008

After Anne Hathaway’s wonderful performances in Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and Becoming Jane, I was intrigued to discover her cast opposite comedian Steve Carrell (The 40Year Old Virgin) for the Spy adventure, Get Smart, a big screen adaptation of the 1960’s American comedy TV show.

Get Smart started off as quite an amusing film, more spoof than serious action, but what occurs is that the first half of the film, making excellent use of its initial stylish Moscow and Russian locations, fares better than the second half, set in a tired-seen-it-before downtown Los Angeles. With Mel Brooks famed for such classic comedies as To Be or Not to Be as an executive producer, I was expecting a comedy, however the joke in Get Smart starts running thin to such an extent that by the end of the film, it seems to be more on the audience who actually spent time and effort sitting through a two-hour movie, than on this half-hearted affair comprising of a mismatched pastiche of James Bond and Mission Impossible films, with scenes reminiscent of Octopussy and Entrapment combined with more high-octane car and plane chase sequences certainly suggestive of the Terminator movies.

Steve Carrell is a talented actor as noted in such independent films as Little Miss Sunshine, yet his particular style of comedy is confusing at times, sometimes serious, but capably funny. His lack of desire at playing the character completely straight or inanely goofy, gives the audience a mixed idea of Get Smart’s main protagonist Maxwell Smart, a desk-bound covert analyst who gets the opportunity to experience the long-anticipated thrills of dangerous espionage fieldwork.

Anne Hathaway, who makes the best of the material of this shallow spoof whose greatest flaw is not taking itself too seriously, seems almost lost as to how to play the super-efficient Agent 99, deadpan or with a comedic wit, leaving her floundering as the better half of a miscast screen couple. Either way she is left grappling for a more meaningful character, not to mention storyline, only to be left smirking on the sidelines, almost acknowledging herself that Get Smart falls short of the mark, which is clearly a waste for such a talented actress.

In the hands of a more astute director such as the brilliantly comic Blake Edwards, this film could have been a really witty sophisticated and stylish spy-drama in the vein of the classic Pink Panther movies, especially given the talents involved. Director, Peter Segal whose previous Adam Sandler movies, The Longest Yard and Anger Management, fails to pool the adequate acting resources and whilst there are too few genuinely hilarious moments in Get Smart, most notably the lavatory scene in the airplane and the sequences set in Russia, particularly Moscow, while the Hollywood finale leaves one wishing for a more substantial filmic experience.

Such great character actors like Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp are wasted in this poorly directed film, which could have been so much sharper than what it was aiming for. Get Smart saving grace is that it portrays Moscow as smarter than Hollywood, which inevitably is always worth a laugh.

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