Skeptical Rye Silverman is pleasantly surprised by the new Get Smart remake.
Back in January, I wrote a blog that debated how good an idea a Get Smart remake was in 2008. Can a parody of a genre that no longer functions in the same way it is being parodied work? Having seen the movie, the answer is yes.
The biggest success of the Get Smart remake is the casting of Steve Carrell as Max. Carrell brings an excellent level of deadpan humor to the role, without attempting to mimic the late, great Don Adams. Taking on the Adams’ cadence would have been a mistake, instead Carrell calls back his own delivery from his days as a Daily Show correspondent. The result is a Maxwell Smart as sure of himself and dedicated as Adams’ with a voice of his own.
The new Max also solves the problem of taking a spy who spoofs James Bond and placing him in a world where Jason Bourne rules: the movie doesn’t establish its Agent 86 as Control’s top agent, instead he is a simple analyst who has been dreaming of spy work his whole life. He carries himself the way he thinks a field agent should, and through this he manages to bumble his way to success in the same way Adams did on the classic series. Again Carrell should be commended for his ability to portray Max’s skills as being not quite the norm, without seeming so off that his actual ability to be an agent would be called into question. In much the same way, the movie lampoons the bureaucracy of the modern Intelligence community, in which the Control agency is as out of place and old fashioned, yet still effective, as Max.
The supporting cast is also very very solid, with strong chemistry between Max and Anne Hathaway’s Agent 99, as well as some sideline humor from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the always welcome David Koechner, and the even more always welcome Alan Arkin, a perfect choice for the Chief. On the villainous side of things, Terence Stamp makes an entertainingly dickish Siegfried, and his right hand man, Ken Davitian, who thankfully doesn’t have any naked fight scenes like he did in Borat. There are also some decent cameos from Larry Miller, Kevin Nealon, an especially solid appearance by Bill Murray, as well as Bernie Kopell, the original Siegfried.
The action sequences are also really well put together for a movie that is a comedy first, with some slapstick moments for good measure that do not overload the fights with too much schtick, and also didn’t contain any noticeable CGI. In a world where remakes have become inevitable, there is never really a chance that one can improve upon the original, so the intent should be to find a way to tell the story in at least a slightly different way, without sullying the good name of the source material. Get Smart the movie always maintains a deep level of respect for the series from whence it came, and still manages to entertain, both old fans like myself and those who have probably never seen an episode. For those two reasons, it is one of the most enjoyable remakes I have ever seen.
Grade: A- (Can’t be a solid A because the original still stands supreme.)