‘Get Smart’ Breaths New Life Into an Old Favorite

When Peter Segal and Co. set out to make this new version of Get Smart, they set out not to remake, but to reinvigorate. In that light, their film can be seen as a significant accomplishment.
By  · Published on June 19th, 2008

In talking about the new incarnation of Get Smart, the film due out this Friday, June 20, producer Charles Roven said that they “didn’t want to recreate it, but to contemporize it — to make it work for our time with a modern perspective and action sequences that aren’t only there to punctuate the laughs but are worthy of any thriller.”

This is, in fact, probably one of the best ways to describe this new version of Get Smart, which sees “The Office” star Steve Carell in the role of Maxwell Smart. We meet Smart as a long time analyst for Control, a secret government spy agency long thought to have been disbanded after the end of the Cold War. Max yearns to break free of his analyst status, but has long been held back by the Chief (Alan Arkin) because he is just too good at his job. When Control’s evil counterpart organization KAOS discovers the identities of Control’s field agents and begins killing them off one by one though, Max gets his long overdue promotion, a chance to work in the field. It also gives him a chance to work with the smoking hot, and very dangerous Agent 99, played by Anne Hathaway. Together they work to discover what KAOS is up to and how they got the identities of the Control field agents.

From there, it is a long string of action mixed with smart comedy (pun intended) that makes Get Smart one of the more easily entertaining films of the summer. It all rests, ultimately, with Steve Carell. And while he is no Don Adams, the original Maxwell Smart, he certainly captures the spirit of the character. He makes his version of Max a deceptively talented agent who has surely been working a desk too long. To balance him, we get the beautiful and immensely talented Anne Hathaway, who is a great fit for Agent 99. Together they have a wonderful on-screen chemistry that is the heart of the film.

Along with a great one-two punch with Carell and Hathaway, the film benefits greatly from its ability to pay its respects and avoid smearing the memories of the old series. Early on in the film, audiences are easily assured that this film is not a remake of the popular series from the 60s, it is just here to pay its respects and give us 110 minutes of laughs, with a few cool action sequences thrown in for good measure. It is clear the director Peter Segal (Tommy Boy) wanted to deliver a film that is universally appealing, but also a film that throws in a few little nods to fans of the classic series, including some classic props (yes, the shoe phone) and some iconic Maxwell Smart moments (“missed it by that much”).

And while I am not a die hard fan of the original series, nor was I alive during the 60s, I cannot say definitely whether that is going to be enough to satisfy the Get Smart purists out there. What I can say is that Segal and team have crafted a film that is entertaining on many levels, delivers great lead performances as well as great supporting ones (Alan Arkin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are both great as well), and it gives the character of Maxwell Smart enough new life that it just may get a new generation interested in an old classic In that way, the angle that Segal and the production team chose to take when they set out to bring Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s iconic characters back to life is probably the best way to go about it — keep it light, find the right cast, make it fun. It is simple, and just plain smart.

Grade: B+

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)