Get Smart (2008)

Get Smart is another one of those spy parody films. It’s loosely based on a television show from the 1960’s which did the same thing. As such, it has to have been upgraded enough to seem current, but also have enough tributes to the show that fans will be able to step back and be like this: “Dude, I totally noticed that this was a reference to the television show.”

The plot focuses on Steve Carell’s character, Max. He begins the film as an analyst for a group called CONTROL, but hopes that with his recent exam scores, he can become an agent. See, analysts don’t get to go out into the field and risk their lives, so clearly that’s the worse of the two jobs, right? Anyway, he idolizes his good friend, Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) and also the Chief (Alan Arkin). He doesn’t get his promotion because he’s too good at his job as an analyst. He makes that clear to us when he questions the reasoning behind not getting the job.

One day, the CONTROL headquarters is ransacked. Max meets Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), who he earlier ran into on the street, but didn’t know that she was an agent. We find out that because CONTROL is now compromised, the identity of all the agents have been revealed. Only Agent 99, who recently underwent plastic surgery, and Max, who wasn’t an agent, can still be used for undercover work. So, the two are tasked with figuring out who was behind the attack, which eventually leads to them discovering that a terrorist attack is being planned.

The leader behind this attack is no other than a man called Siegfried (Terrence Stamp). Or maybe he’s not actually behind it, as we later hear him talking to a distorted voice over the telephone, but for all intents and purposes, he’s our major villain. The plan is eventually to have the President of the United States visit some area, and then use nuclear weapons to blow him, and the rest of the surrounding area, to smithereens.

The jokes come fast and often, at least, they do at the beginning of Get Smart. Near the end, when the plot actually gets dire, characters stop parodying spy movie caricatures and end up just becoming stereotypes themselves. What starts off as innocent fun with characters jabbing at one another quite frequently ends up with them trying to save the world with nothing other than a serious note on their face.

As a result, the film starts out quite funny, but eventually winds up not doing what it needs to: Make us laugh. It’s like watching a stand up comedian who quickly runs out of jokes and ends up telling us a sob story about how his girlfriend left him, he became a drug addict and no longer has a will to live. That might be a tad of an exaggeration, but it’s what I pictured when the umpteenth chase scene happened.

Admittedly, the final chase scene of the film was inventive and well-made, and in a serious action film, it probably would have been the highlight. But to conclude what was perpetrated to be a joke, it didn’t quite fit, especially because of how serious it was. It involves a helicopter, a car, and a banner, as well as three characters. Saying who is involved will ruin part of the surprise.

Steve Carell is a funny person. His blabbering in the early portions of the film makes it work. But once he actually has to act like a proper spy — and trust me, he is capable — the random quips are mostly gone, and so is the sense of humor. I wanted him to continue to have arguments with Agent 99, but after the mid-way point, those were pretty much gone as well.

I can’t say that I was bored during Get Smart, even if I wasn’t laughing as much as I would have hoped for. The action picks up right where the comedy leaves, and while the mixture of the two doesn’t come together as well as I would have liked, there’s always something going on to hold your attention. Taken as a straight action film, it has some impressive stunts, some action-packed scenes, and a couple of chase scenes that are quite well-made. It even has people swinging from building to building like they’re Spider-Man, except that they’re more like George swinging in the jungle.

The highlights of the film probably come from the cameos and supporting roles. Cameo appearances include Bill Murray, Patrick Warburton and Bernie Kopell. Dalip Singh, or perhaps more famously, The Great Kahli, plays the muscle character for the bad guys, who also might have a heart of gold, while Terry Crews, Masi Oka and Nate Torrence play other members of CONTROL, delivering some of the more enjoyable moments of the film, largely due to how the different characters play off one another.

Get Smart isn’t a bad film, but it’s far less enjoyable than it initially seemed like it would be. It starts out really funny, with jokes flying fast and frequently, but they eventually die down to a dull whisper, which coincides with the increase in explosions. Our eyes still have something to look at, and most viewers will probably still have a great deal of fun, but this is a film that loses its luster the longer it goes on. It has a few interesting cameos and supporting roles which do help keep things fresh, although you need more than that to make the film as enjoyable as it starts out as.

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