Get Smart "missed it by that much." Still, the film is sure to please most mainstream movie goers looking for a simple, crowd pleasing comedy, but the film hardly captures the spirit of the original cult series.
Get Smart (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: Peter Segal
Producers: Peter Segal and Steve Carell
Writers: Tom J. Astle (written by) & Matt Ember (written by) Mel Brooks (characters) and Buck Henry (characters)
Features: * Branching Mode * Featurettes * Gag Reel * Digital Copy * DVD Game
Steve Carell ... Maxwell Smart
Anne Hathaway ... Agent 99
Dwayne Johnson ... Agent 23
Alan Arkin ... The Chief
Terence Stamp ... Siegfried
Terry Crews ... Agent 91
David Koechner ... Larabee
James Caan ... The President
Bill Murray ... Agent 13
Patrick Warburton ... Hymie
Masi Oka ... Bruce
Nate Torrence ... Lloyd
Ken Davitian ... Shtarker
Get Smart Blu-ray Review
It seems like, these days, actor Steve Carell is taking just about everything from comedian Jim Carrey. First, he took over the big budget sequel to "Bruce Almighty" entitled "Evan Almighty." And now, heís taken over the high concept retooling of "Get Smart," a project that Jim Carrey had long hoped to star in since he began development of the project in 1998.
Thatís not to say that Carell isnít as funny, clever or manically original as Carrey. Both stars hold their own weight against one another and feature extraordinarily different performances--one is reserved with his comedy, one is not. Rather, it seems odd how the once great comedy star has intentionally shied away from big budget mainstream comedies, barring a few exceptions (like this fallís "Yes Man"). Perhaps the light and cheery safeness of the mainstream hit, "Bruce Almighty" scared Carrey away from those projects. Or he simply is losing great roles to an up-and-coming comedy star.
In the case of "Get Smart," itís probably best that Carrey stayed away. While Steve Carell is perfect for the role of the zany, goofball Maxwell Smart, the film itself is hardly a crowning comedy achievement. Plucking itís concept from the cult 60s TV series created by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, the show was designed as a cross between James Bond and a typical Mel Brooks comedy. Itís silly, irreverent and loaded with in-jokes and spoofy humor. The film borrows some ideas from the show, but hardly captures the spirit of the original series. Instead, it reduces itself to fond mimicry.
Like so many high concept comedies these days, the film plays it too safe. Instead of going for deeper, more irreverent madcap jokes, the film consistently moves toward the fart joke, the fat joke, the homosexual gag, the butt gag, etc. All of those are amusing in their own cheap way, but nothing about the film feels madcap and zany and what few clever jokes there are, have been joylessly plucked from the series. Thereís rarely a shocking moment, and when one does appear, it feels out of context with the rest of the film.
Carell does a fine job as Maxwell Smart, but he seems to slip in and out of character from time-to-time. Some of this isnít his fault. This Maxwell Smart only slightly resembles the character fans have grown to know and love, and this seemed hard for Carell to balance. Because of this, occasionally, Carell slides into playing the goof from "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" while at other times; heís the goof from "Evan Almighty." Even his immortally goofy character, Michael Scott from "The Office," appears shining through Carellís paper-thin demeanor. Make no mistake, Carell is a comedy genius, but like so many other remakes of TV shows ("Starsky and Hutch" immediately comes to mind), the comedy and characters feel tired--borrowed from the starís collection of better, funnier works. Thereís even a "peripheral vision" joke in the film, borrowed straight from extended cut of "The 40 Year-Old Virgin." Sure, itís still a funny gag, but itís been done before.
Then thereís Agent 99, as portrayed by Anne Hathaway. In the film, Agent 99 is actually in her early 40s, but due to facial reconstruction, Agent 99 is now the late-20s Anne Hathaway. Itís played as an off-gag, but conceptually, this is probably one of single most ageist, sexist gags ever put on film. At least the issue is directly addressed in an honest and almost sad way as Agent 99 regrets having to change her looks, but that doesnít absolve the studioís decision to make her character younger. At least Agent 99 gets to kick some serious butt instead of finding herself in the lame "damsel in distress" category of female action leads. Even when she is captured, sheís easily able to get out of the situation.
The film does have its bright spots, even among the mine field of tired gags. Thereís a mid-air action sequence thatís well choreographed and very fun to watch. It tops the last mid-air combat scene from "Shoot ĎEm Up." The level of on-screen violence and death is right on-par with the TV show, which was surprisingly violent for its day. The cast is also quite strong. Hathaway is great as Agent 99. Alan Arkin is top notch as The Chief. Dwayne Johnson is also funny as Agent 23. Terrence Stamp is clever and diabolical as the leader of KAOS, but sadly heís not quite as silly as he should have been. Bill Murray also chimes in as the nefarious Agent 13, who typically finds himself on assignment in the most peculiar of places; in this case itís a tree.
Director Peter Segal ("Anger Management") does a fair job with the direction, but too many scenes come off as cheeky and self-aware. Segal usually works with Adam Sandler, and he carries over a lot of the sight gags from those pictures. Sadly, he doesnít bring along the sense of hit-and-miss charisma that Sandler sometimes brings to his pictures (like "You Donít Mess with the Zohan" or "50 First Dates"). Sure, there are misses galore with his Sandler's films, but at least his films are trying.
While "Get Smart" "missed it by that much," the film is sure to please most mainstream movie goers looking for a simple, crowd pleasing comedy. This isnít a "Borat" or even a "Knocked Up," but the film does have its appeal. Itís certainly cute and amusing, and funny enough to warrant a trip to the theaters. Long time fans of the cult series might find themselves tired out by the lame retreads and dumb humor and longing for a complete series DVD release.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B+
Film Value: C-
Warner presents "Get Smart" in 1.85:1 widescreen at 1080p/VC-1 video on a BD25 disc. The result isnít entirely impressive considering this is a brand new release. The disc is free of dust, dirt and scratches, but clarity is lacking. Colors are somewhat muted and flat and fleshtones are a touch on the orange side. Black levels are a tad too dark as well, robbing scenes of depth and detail. Lighting is equally uninspired, with the overall look of Control, and other sets, feeling ripped from a straight-to-video film. The encode isnít particularly sharp, either. Some digital artifacting was noted during the presentation. Considering this is a brand new picture, it was truly disappointing this transfer didnít zing in the usual way.
Warner gives "Get Smart" a complexly underwhelming Dolby Digital 5.1 to enjoy. Surround usage is surprisingly subdued, with very few discrete effects. Worse is the dialogue, which sounds undercooked and hollow, as though recorded in an oversized, echoey studio. Bass effects are also a bit weak, with only a few moments standing out.
It upsets me that this release didnít get a full high-res audio treatment. It probably would have sounded even cleaner. Why TV releases arenít getting high-res audio treatments is just downright disappointing. I think this will come back and bite Warner in the butt in the near future. Theyíve already gone back and re-released "Superman Returns" with high-res audio. Itís only a matter of time before consumers demand it, just like they did with Dolby Digital 5.1 and anamorphic widescreen.
Warner gives fans a healthy assortment of special features, but thereís nothing really insightful here, despite being three-discs large.
ē Comedy Optimization Mode (HD) -- Via branching (a telephone booth pops up and you click on it), fans can watch nearly 30-minutes worth of deleted/alternate takes (with introductions). Some of the bits are funny, some not. To be honest, I would have preferred an alternate, extended cut of the film altogether.
ē Featurettes (SD) -- Six short features cover minute details of the film. Some are decently informative, like the featurette about the similarities between the show and the film. Other featurettes are uneventful, like the disgusting vomit reel or the fluffy "Bruce and Lloyd" featurette that serves to promote that dismal straight-to-video romp.
ē Gag Reel (SD) -- Finally, thereís a fairly hilarious montage of goofs, gaffes and line flubs. Amusing.
ē Disc 2: Digital Copy (SD) -- You know the drill with this.
ē Two of the above mentioned featurettes are exclusive to Blu-ray. They include, "The Vomit Reel" and "The Old ĎI did it in the movieí Trick."
ē Disc 3: DVD Game--Kaos Control -- Iím not really sure who this game is for. Itís pretty underwhelming, not particularly very fun and sort of a waste of a disc.
The disc is packed in the usual ĎEliteí Blu-ray case with an outside sleeve that sports a lenticular. Design is classy and in keeping with Warnerís other titles.
"Get Smart" should have been an uproarious comedy adventure, but the jokes fall flat with Carrellís goofy Max coming off as tiresome and underused. Still, the film plays well on a Saturday afternoon, but donít expect to find yourself rolling on the floor, laughing your head off. The Blu-ray disc is barely an improvement over the DVD. Frankly, Warner needs to kick things up a notch with their new releases. Theyíre just not up to snuff as of late.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: C
Recommendation: Give it a rent.
On DVD and Blu-ray: November 4, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer