Get Smart seemingly does several things right in remaking the quirky spy parody created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. First, it involves Brooks and Henry in some capacity as consultants. Second, it features near-perfect casting with Steve Carell as CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart, Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, and Alan Arkin as their Chief. And thirdly, it largely captures the spirit of the original while paying homage.
However, the film still can't overcome its biggest hurdle: Get Smart is just not funny.
Sure, it has a few funny moments, but you've already seen them in the commercials. Almost all of the rest of the jokes fall embarrassingly flat—like an odd, forced line about milking spiders (??) and really stale political satire. But unfunny attempts are not as much of the problem as is how seldom the movie even tries to be funny. Frankly, I was shocked by how few gags are in the movie. In fact, when the film does detour from the hum-drum spy-thriller plot or sappy down-on-his-luck hero montages, the comedy bits feel out-of-place, forced and rushed. Few bits are given a chance to patiently build to a payoff like the old show was known for. For instance, there is a sequence that seems to be setting up a gag about how assassinated agents keep dying face-first into their food—but after it happens just twice, the joke moves on to something else.
Carell told Entertainment Weekly that he agreed to the movie when it was pitched to him as "a comedic Bourne Identity." That sounds great. The trouble is that Get Smart isn't so much an integration of two genres, as it is a tug of war between them. In the end, neither genre fully works.
If the film had a strong spy-thriller plot, a dip in the TV show's consistent goofiness, sly satire ...1
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