Sometimes the decision to remake a television series for the big screen is the wrong one, as the movie adaptation adds nothing to the legacy of the series, and may in fact detract from it – recent examples include the atrocious Bewitched. Occasionally, however, the translation works and the film can succeed in its own right, and thankfully that is the case with Get Smart.
Steve Carell is Maxwell Smart, an experienced analyst for Control who only wishes to become a field agent. When Control are attacked by someone with inside knowledge of their facility, Max is promoted for his first field assignment. His partner is the much more senior and successful Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), and their target a KAOS operative who has obtained nuclear weapons. Will Max survive his first assignment and save the world?
Although Buck Henry and Mel Brooks are listed as consultants, there is much that is dissimilar between the current and former versions of Get Smart. The outright slapstick of the series has been toned down, and Max’s incompetence is less striking. That being said, the familiar catch cries are all used (‘Missed it by that much’, ‘Would you believe…’ etc) and there are obviously moments in which Carell gets the chance to play the fool. The overall tone is a little more serious, however, in the new version.
Anne Hathaway plays a more severe version of Agent 99, with little of the wry smile and ‘Oh, Max’ of Barbara Feldon’s small screen version. Hathaway certainly looks the part, however, with her martial arts scenes in particular standing out for her obvious competence. She is a little less certain when the script calls for her to fall for her new partner however, with Agent 99’s supposed new vulnerability never quite believable.
The film moves at a fair pace, with the balance between action sequences, exposition and comic relief maintained throughout. The comedy is often of the ‘laugh out loud’ variety, and Carell manages to walk the line between amusing and over-the-top without straying.
Although it is unlikely to replace the original series, this modern reimagining of the characters and their stories is entertaining and the decision to move to an ‘origins’ plotline between Agents 86 and 99 is a reasonable one. Hopefully we won’t be flooded with Get Smart 2 and 3 in coming years, however, as although this experiment worked once it probably wouldn’t hold up under repeat scrutiny.Rating: