Get Smart

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Get Smart
Review (7.5/10)
(By Erin Cullin)

As I watched the end credits during a screening of “Get Smart” this past weekend, I was struck by what was not listed. Anne Hathaway and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson each had their own hairstylists (because, as we all know, Dwayne Johnson has those long flowing locks that need tending). They also both had their own personal assistants.

Steve Carell, on the other hand, had no one. No special hairstylists. No special make-up artists. No personal assistants. Just plain, old Steve Carell.

I cannot say for sure, but if I had to guess, I would say that is the magic behind Steve Carell’s runaway success - the fact that, in spite of the money and the fame - underneath it all, he is still just plain, old Steve Carell.

Who better, then, to play the hapless protagonist in the big-screen remake of “Get Smart”?

Get Smart” focuses on the antics of Maxwell Smart (Carell), an analyst with CONTROL, a secret spy agency reporting to the United States government. Unlike his television predecessor, this Maxwell Smart is actually a pretty bright guy - his ability to speak multiple foreign languages has made him one of the agency’s most valuable surveillance analysts. But he dreams of being a field agent, and the opportunity has finally presented itself for him to demonstrate his skills. With the help of Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), Smart is the agency’s only hope to thwart the nuclear ambitions of KAOS, an international criminal organization. Unfortunately for Smart, he is about to discover that his skills behind the scenes have done nothing to prepare him for his latest assignment.

When “Get Smart” was placed into development in the late 1990's, Jim Carrey was attached to assume the leading role. Fortunately for all involved, Steve Carell ultimately stepped into his shoes. Where Carrey would have exploded onto the screen with his typical over-the-top antics, Carell delivers an understated, deadpan performance that is nothing short of hilarious.

The film’s casting directors also deserve kudos for the decision to place Anne Hathaway in the role of Agent 99. While I will admit that I had my doubts when I read that she was cast (I had difficulty envisioning her as anything other than a Disney Princess), her performance was a pleasant surprise. She has excellent comic timing and her martial arts stunts rivaled that of Jennifer Garner. She was a brave choice that paid off.

At the end of the day, “Get Smart” succeeds not simply because of its casting, but because it is a well-made film. The dialogue is funny. The stunts are outrageous, but are so well-choreographed that they are realistic. And the sets - well, you have to see them to believe them. There are scenes that are purportedly set in Moscow that are so lifelike that I thought that the city was erroneously omitted as a shooting location in the end credits. It seemed impossible that it was a computer-generated special effect (which it was).

Get Smart” is not the best or the funniest film that I have seen this year, but it is a good, solid film that is well worth the price of admission. Hopefully, it will be the first in a successful series (although I hoped the same thing for “The Saint”, and we all know how that ended). And, if not, at least we’ll always have Moscow.

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