Get Smart (2008)

(In theaters, June 2008) Spy/Comedy hybrids usually have more potential than success and this film is no exception to the rule. While several of the conceits from the “Get Smart” TV series are still ingenious, their incarnation here never seems to be exploited to its fullest extent. Steve Carrel is irreproachable as Maxwell Smart, presenting an endearing mixture of competence and inexperience. Anne Hathaway, surprisingly enough, isn’t as charming: her character is quicker to become abusive than exasperated, and despite the in-story justification for her false youthfulness, there’s seldom a sense that she’s got the maturity required for that type of character. The rest of the plot isn’t much better than adequate. The nonsense about weapons of mass destruction is too pedestrian to fit in the humorous premise, and indeed the film struggles to find comedy in situations that should be ripe for it. The most disappointing aspect of this big-budget movie remake is the pedestrian dialog, which rarely rises above the strictly perfunctory. As you may expect, the action sequences play better than anything else (well, except Alan Alda, who’s a riot no matter what he does) but the problem here is that action sequences are cheap and plentiful, while Get Smart most definitely isn’t. While the film is not a disaster, it is a disappointment in how it suggests intriguing possibilities and then fails to follow them up.

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