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Get Smart

Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway in Get Smart

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE casting of Steve Carell as the comic lead in this latest remake of a classic American TV series proves to be a very smart choice indeed – as it ultimately prevents Get Smart from being the total disaster it could have been!

Carell almost single-handedly keeps the movie afloat, achieving more with a pained look or subtle expression than director Peter Segal does with many of the larger set pieces.

Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is a field analyst for government agency CONTROL who wants nothing more than to become an agent in the mould of his idol, Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson).

He gets his big chance, however, when CONTROL is breached by crime syndicate KAOS and the identity of all current agents is compromised. So, teaming up with the glamorous Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), Smart must uncover the leak within his own organisation and prevent yet another terrorist plan for global domination.

Based on the late-‘60s sitcom devised by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and starring Don Adams, Get Smart is a hit-and-miss concoction of countless spy movies that attempts to blend laugh-out-loud humour and political satire with hard-hitting action.

Yet while it’s never less than watchable, the film is seldom as smart as it thinks it is and – at almost two hours – consistently threatens to outstay its welcome.

Carell, though, is the main reason for seeing it and while fans who remember the series have been divided over whether he’s managed to emulate the charms of its original star, there’s no denying that the film benefits from his energy and expert timing. The actor is hapless without being clueless and endearing without being annoying. By attempting to stay serious and allowing the situations to dictate the comedy, he stays the right side of believable and is never less than root-worthy.

Anne Hathaway, to be fair, is lumbered with a role that requires nothing more from her than to look sexy and play things straight, while Dwayne Johnson also has little to do until the big finish. But the villains could do with a little more fleshing out and are a little too stereotyped.

Segal does deliver some suitably explosive set pieces to raise things in the action stakes and even drops in a welcome surprise cameo from Bill Murray – but you can’t help feeling that he’d be fighting a losing battle if it weren’t for the presence of his leading man.

The ensuing action-comedy is big on spectacle, hit-and-miss on laughs and rarely better than a guilty pleasure kind of experience. It should have been so much better.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hrs 50mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 23, 2009