There’s little that makes me happier, at least within the scope of this blog, than when a movie winds up being better than I expect it to be going in. Such is the case with today’s movie, Get Smart, the 2008 adaptation of the classic TV comedy series. To be sure, this is probably due largely to my low expectations. The reason I’ve waited so long to see this movie is because I was expecting it to pretty much be idiot-grade garbage that would only be able to create humor by mocking the source material that its supposed to be selling. Instead what I got was some cleverly-stupid humor (if such a thing can be said to exist), hung from the frame of a pretty good action movie. The film’s strengths come from good chemistry amongst a cast that is clearly having a bunch of fun, and from a few surprisingly good, big action sequences.
Steve Carell stars as Maxwell Smart, an analyst for top-secret U.S. intelligence agency CONTROL who, after years of working in the trenches finally gets promoted to field work as Agent 86. Carell’s performance is something of a mixed bag, for the most-part his Maxwell Smart is pretty similar to The Office’s Michael Scott although he will occasionally lapse into straight-up mimicry of Don Adams’ original portrayal of the character. Carell’s Adams impression is pretty good, but it only pops up a couple times so it’s oddly out of place. Where Carell does excel is building chemistry with whoever he’s sharing the screen with, making even the massive and largely silent henchman Dalip (Dalip Singh) feel like a genuine part of an ensemble cast.
Anne Hathaway stars opposite Carell as Agent 99. She’s pretty great as Agent 99, and as I alluded to previously, develops fantastic chemistry with Carell, while holding her own in the action scenes. If there’s one complaint I have, (and damned If I ever thought I’d complain about this,) it’s that Hathaway is so incredibly attractive that its almost distracting. It’s not even like she’s running around half-naked in the movie either, she’s just fantastically beautiful and… I’d best just leave that there before this paragraph gets any weirder.
As for the rest of the cast, Dwayne Johnson is fantastic as CONTROL’s top gun, Agent 23. He plays the character straight-up and serious, with only the slightest amount of tongue-in-cheek, allowing the rest of the cast to play off of him as the straight man. I was less a fan of the CONTROL team, in particular I thought David Koechner’s character loudmouth/idiot/bully Larabee seemed out of place and unbelievable, even in a fairly broad comedy like this one. Meanwhile Masi Oka and Nate Torrence are moderately funny, as CONTROL underlings Bruce and Lloyd, but they just seem really unnecessary.
Where Get Smart really surprised me was with the amount and quality of its action scenes. There is a skydiving scene early in the movie that I would probably rate as the most exciting skydiving scene I’ve seen, ever, and yet its also funny. Also worthy of praise is the climactic car/airplane/train chase. This is a really well done action scene, worthy of a Bond movie, the fact that its in a comedy should do nothing to diminish just how exciting it is.
Exciting is not a word that I thought I’d wind up using in this review when I sat down to watch Get Smart this morning. Yet it’s absolutely appropriate. I was expecting this movie to be a doofy spy parody, along the lines of Spy Hard or Johnny English. Instead, I got an exciting action comedy that actually puts serious effort into that action tag. It’s certainly worth seeing.