Surely after the Speed Racer fiasco, Warner Brothers was ready to say "sayonara" to lame 1960s TV adaptations. But plainly there wasn't time for the studio to, ahem, Get Smart about that.
Thus, we're treated to a big-budget, big stars, big explosions big-screen blowout of Get Smart, the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry TV comedy that is far better in memory than it was in reality. An intermittently funny goof on the James Bond mania of the '60s, it would seem a natural feature-film subject, especially because they landed Steve Carell to play the role that Don Adams "Would you believe'd" into the pop-culture psyche, Maxwell Smart.
But as apt at the casting of the beetle-browed Carell is — he does "clueless" as well as anybody — as much money and talent as they had to throw at this monstrosity, it rarely generates laughs. It's pleasant enough, especially when Anne Hathaway, in bombshell Agent 99 mode, is on screen, or when Dwayne "Once The Rock" Johnson is vamping or when Oscar winner Alan Arkin is fuming some anti "vice president" rant as The Chief. But chuckles? Dearly bought.
Smart is an analyst for super-secret Control, an agency allegedly disbanded after the end of the Cold War. He has just passed his "agent" test (on the eighth try), but only wins a field assignment when Control is compromised. Somebody is buying yellow-cake uranium from the Russians. The nerdy new Agent 86 and the absurdly gorgeous Agent 99 must team up to track down the sellers, the buyers and the bombs that will come from that.
Spectacular fights and shootouts (a comedy with a very high body count) are followed by slapstick stunts, this or that homage to the old TV show or old James Bond movies (borrowed stunts, a tribute to the villain "Jaws") and a growing flirtation/jealousy between 99 and 86, humorously played out in a silly tango scene.
Carell seems a little lost as to how to make Max different from his characters in The Office and the other big-budget comedies he has deadpanned his way through. Hathaway is game for more goofiness than the movie provides, and Terrence Stamp isn't allowed to play a funny villain. Johnson is the only player who lands laughs as the haughty Super Agent friend to Max, Agent 23.
Well, aside from the Control agents who live to tease Max (Terry Crews and David Koechner). They call him "Maxi-pad," which may be the funniest line in the picture.
Cameos by Bill Murray (why?) and Bernie Kopell (from the original show) and Maxwell Smart's original shoe-phone and the Sunbeam and VW Karmann Ghia he drove in the series deliver a little nostalgia.
But allusions to a sequel will seem pretty disheartening if this overlong (almost two hours) clunker, directed by one of Adam Sandler's house-hacks ( Peter Segal) tanks. It's merely the third-funniest "star" comedy of the summer, after Love Guru and Zohan.
"Missed it by that much?"
Not even that close.