Get Smart

Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp and James Caan. Directed by Peter Segal
Running Time: 110 mins
Rated: Rated PG (comedic violence and coarse language)

This is a 2008 version of the classic television show that was built around Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 (played originally by Don Adams and Barbara Feldon) as agents working for the spy agency CONTROL. The original series was iconic and no doubt still retains its fans, and was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, who wereconsultants for this film. The plot in this film is alive with sub-plots, and aims to entertain throughout.

Believing enemy agents have penetrated CONTROL, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is promoted by the Chief of CONTROL (Alan Arkin), after agents keep dying, to become the person responsible for Field Operative. Max works with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to try and find out who has been supplying nuclear weapons to KAOS, the arch enemy of CONTROL. Max's task is to prevent KAOS from trading the nuclear weapons. As the plot unravels, Max comes under suspicion as a double agent, but Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson), who also works in CONTROL is the real double agent who tries to thwart Max. The plot moves to a conspiracy to set off a bomb in Los Angeles that Max solves after Siegfried (who has penetrated CONTROL and is a KAOS operative) threatens to blow up Los Angeles and the President of the USA (James Caan). The President is attending a concert where the last note of "Ode to Joy' will set off the bomb that will kill him - which, of course, brings up memories of great spy movies such as Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much.' The President survives, due to Max's predictable initiative, and Max and Agent 99 both escape through a network of steel doors, one of which catches Max through his clumsiness, so bringing the movie to a typical Maxwell-Smart conclusion.

In the original television series, Maxwell Smart was a likeable dead-pan hero, who was an adept deliverer of witty one-liners, desperately trying to look secure in a world constantly creating chaos around him. He was assisted by an adoring Agent 99 who loved him despite all his faults. In this movie, it is not quite like that. The film is less a re-take of the old television series than a spoof of James Bond-type movies that have been made since. Steve Carell (of "The Office' fame) doesn't try to just imitate the old series, but does a good job in this film to entertain by looking clumsy and behaving stupidly, rather than trying to portray someone always out of his depth. Anne Hathaway is less the adoring Agent 99 than a formidable agent in her own right, with some unnerving martial-art skills. Not surprisingly, she eventually falls for Max.

A movie like this has to be updated to entertain; it is too hard to do the old shoe-phone routine when technology has advanced so much. The Director (Peter Segal) has chosen to partly revisit the old format and as in the original series there are some great one-liners that are well-delivered by Carell. The film may disappoint fans of the old series, because it aims for something different. The plot is a little bit of a mish-mash of sub-themes, rather than highly original; sometimes, the timing of the one-liners is not all that sharp; and there is a great deal of stunts and chase sequences to dampen down the old, simple charm. However, the film is enjoyable and funny, and entertains.

Warner Brothers Out June 26

Peter W. Sheehan. Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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