25 June 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Get Smart

Agents 86 and 99 aren't amused, but you will be. (Warner Bros.)

Get Smart (B)

Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp
Written by Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember (based on characters created by Mel Brooks & Buck Henry)
Directed by Peter Segal

When it comes to taking TV series to the big screen, sometimes you get a Fugitive, sometimes you get a Dukes of Hazzard. Fortunately, this is closer to Richard Kimball than the Duke boys. Still, you'll get the feeling they missed being great by this much.

So let's start with the good. First, no one could have filled Don Adams' telephone shoes better than the brilliantly deadpan Steve Carell, and he plays the role with gusto. Whether dancing with a, how shall I put this delicately, robust woman, or getting harpooned in the face, Carell's giving it all, which, come to think of it, he does with every role, good or bad. In fact, few actors have a shred of the comic timing he possesses.

Secondly, Carell and Hathaway (an actress I've always wished would invest in a higher class of pictures) play off each other very well. They won't go down as one of the all-time great duos, but it's certainly better than expected. Their chemistry is well-played; not every laugh is obvious, occasionally, the writers make you work for your laughs, which is surprising considering their, um, accomplished resumé.

Third of all, and this is surprising, it's squeaky-clean (well, aside from a tired gay joke). The action's a little intense for some younger viewers, but the fact that all involved didn't take the opportunity to stuff Get Smart full of double entendres is exciting, proving that foul language and tawdry jokes don't have to pervade every live action comedy that comes along.

But it doesn't all work so well. Alan Arkin and Dwayne Johnson, so great in their last comedic roles, are pretty much wasted here and the cameos are hit or miss. Also, the barrage of explosions and fight scenes want you to believe this as an action flick, but it really can't have it both ways. Not with the B-list talent behind the camera, unfortunately.

Overall, though, this is a highly enjoyable comedy with plenty of quotable lines and good sight gags. It's probably the funniest movie we'll get this summer. So if they continue to make a series of films out of this, well then that might just be OK, too.

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