It can't be an easy task trying to bring a television icon like Maxwell Smart to the big screen. Not in the sense of translating a show into a movie because that's just a matter of getting funding. However, the actors that are charged with portraying these television characters are in a tough spot. Unless they were the character from the original show, they will always be faced with living in the shadow of the one who made it famous.
It's not always about finding someone that resembled the character either. Although that does help. Still, what the producers need is someone who can match the persona of the tv original without trying to be a cheap imitation. It can be difficult, but someone like Steve Carell can handle such a daunting task.
Some might say to call the "Get Smart" series iconic would be a stretch. They would be wrong. This show created a new jaundre by making light of the spy genre. No longer were the secret agents deadpan and always accomplishing missions with the greatest of ease. Max was a flawed agent whose best weapon was his sarcastic wit. The late Don Adams delivered impeccable timing that paved the way for other imitators like "Inspector Gadget" and even the "Austin Powers" series.
In the movie version, analyst Max Smart (Carell) has aspirations to one day move up in the ranks of CONTROL by becoming a field agent. The problem is he is SO good at his job that it makes him unpromotable. That is until CONTROL is infiltrated and the identities of several agents are compromised. The Chief (Alan Arkin) then has no choice but to promote Max to field agent status to assist with thwarting KAOS' terrorist plan.
Although Max has had years of experience in counterintelligence, putting it into practical use in the field was an entirely new transition for him. He gets assigned to veteran agent Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) who is bitter about the fact that she is stuck with the novice. He does prove to be fairly inept, but his unconventional methods do occasionally work out for him and that help the two of them be somewhat successful.
What they got right from the very beginning was the tone of the film. They could have fell into the crude humor format that plagues a lot of comedies today. However, that would not have been staying true to the series. A joke or two may come close to the proverbial line, but never cross it. Okay...outside of the one moment where Max is trying to get an unconscious KAOS agent to use an eye sensor, but that was worth it.
The best part is that jokes are spread generously throughout the film. Something else that is a tribute to what creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry achieved with the "Get Smart" show. In fact, there were quite a few moments that were laugh out loud funny. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't always Carell giving the best lines either. For instance, the Chief's response to what he was thinking was priceless.
Surprisingly, the stunts in "Get Smart" add another bonus to the film. I went in thinking that the focus would be on the comedy. So much so that the action would suffer. That would have even been okay because they did such a good job at making it funny. However, the climax with the plane and the SUV on the railroad tracks was executed nicely.
The supporting cast was also on point throughout. The Rock (yes, you will always be The Rock to me, Dwayne) does what's expected of him as Agent 23. David Koechner as Agent 91 has proven yet once more that "Anchorman" was no fluke. Plus, as Siegfried, Terence Stamp continues to re-invent himself, although he will still always be General Zod to me.
"Get Smart" turns out to be a relatively smart comedy. It's a product that the late Don Adams would be proud of. Sure, it's no "The Nude Bomb", but it's definitely worthy of igniting a franchise to introduce "Get Smart" to a new generation of viewers. There was no "missing it by that much"...they hit the mark with this one.
My rating: B+