Sunday, December 07, 2008

Get Smart

2008, US, directed by Peter Segal

I loved the Get Smart TV show when growing up: it played on Saturday mornings in Ireland, and we'd be up early to follow Maxwell Smart's antics, miming the pratfalls afterwards. The biggest problem with this remake - apart from the usual redundancy of such ventures - is that it feels nothing like the TV show: the original was anchored in the Cold War-James Bond heyday, whereas this Agent 86 has to deal with an entirely different world, a contemporary reality close enough that the film seems shy about making Smart truly incompetent (something the old show was much less wary of). Indeed, the character, played here by Steve Carell, is more like Bond with slapstick - accident prone but still capable of saving the world, whereas the original Smart was a danger to all around him.

Like other action comedies, the film is also all at sea when it comes to establishing a consistent tone: the genuine violence of some scenes sits very uneasily with the comedy (Bad Company has similar problems), another issue more or less absent from the more cartoonish original. While Carell is an appealing performer, he can do this kind of deadpan silliness in his sleep; his role feels very underwritten, or perhaps overwritten into oblivion, whereas other cast members, notably Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and a pair of geeky sidekicks, get more consistent material, which they milk to good effect.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States