The rapid-fire cadence of anything-but-failsafe superspy Maxwell Smart, as embodied by Don Adams (doing William Powell) on Boomer- and Nick at Niteowl-beloved sitcom Get Smart, is authoritative and oblivious, like a small-town D.A. who doesn’t realize his sleeve is on fire: he’s not Steve Carell, he’s Stephen Colbert. Building around Carell’s happily frightened underdog schtick, the makers of this inevitable dust-off seek square one, sending Carell’s newly minted, eager-beaver Agent 86 out on his first globetrot with unimpressed 99 (Anne Hathaway). Maxie’s snippy courtship of his TV Land Girl Friday is a shame, not least because Hathaway’s default expression is the foxy infinite patience of original 99 Barbara Feldon. (Just as Alan Arkin’s last-gasp rasp invokes Ed Platt’s exasperated Chief.)
Where TV’s Smart was a Borscht Belt Bond, groaners repeated until you caved amid nifty set pieces, this summer tentpole is an “action comedy,” Carell and Hathaway cracking wise and checking off the show’s catchphrases between shopworn stunts and pyrotechnics. Trevor Raben’s overutilized score swallows up Irving Szathmary’s Mancini-esque theme, par for a movie fat with excess layers of supporting cast.
A given that this Get Smart would be less Jewish than Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s original (why would an Asian guy build a robot named “Hymie”?), excepting the goofy Yibberish alias Smart gives eeevil Sigfried (Terence Stamp as General Zod). But the show’s trickle-down Mod design and futurist gadgetry had 60s swing; in our age of Apple and Ikea, how’d the movie end up looking so overstuffed and bland? (The Cone of Silence is a CGI blah.) Yeah, TV show this, TV show that, but what use are the external signifiers without the sensibility that birthed them?
"A few nights ago, I had a dream that my long-dead childhood pet—an overweight Springer Spaniel named Peppermint Patty—ate my entire novel, page by page, wagging her tail the entire time. When she was finished, she woofed once, licked my face, and curled up next to me on the sofa. She appeared deeply satisfied."