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Jim Wunderle
Jim Wunderle

Review: ‘Get Smart’ keeps TV show’s intelligence

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“Get Smart”

Directed by: Peter Segal

Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Dwayne Johnson

Rated: PG-13

There is always a sense of trepidation when going to see a movie based on a TV show.

Even films that have launched franchises misfired in the early stages. The first “Star Trek” movie was mired in its efforts to introduce us to characters we already knew.

“Dragnet,” “Bewitched” and, if I dare say, “Sex and the City” are boring at best, tedious at worst and – all in all – a waste of time and celluloid.

But occasionally a director gets things right and pulls off the jump from small screen to big screen.

The latest TV-to-big-screen-effort is Peter Segal’s “Get Smart.”

Thankfully, Segal and writers Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember play it smart all the way, sidestepping the clichés that were so readily available.

“Get Smart,” the TV show, has an impeccable comedic pedigree. It was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and came to life during the precarious days of the Cold War. The show managed to poke fun at what was, at the time, a discomforting situation for people in every corner of the globe.

“Get Smart” also gave birth to several catchphrases of the times. “Sorry about that, Chief,” “Would you believe ...” and “Missed it by that much” became part of the 1960s lexicon. They were as much a part of the daily conversation as “groovy” and “far out.”

Segal, Astle and Ember do their duty and make reference to those iconic statements but wisely don’t overplay them. One or two of each sneak their way into the movie and do so merely in passing.

The plot of “Get Smart” is nonsensical, and it matters not in the least. To be truthful, had some of the comedic elements been cast aside, it could have just as easily been the latest James Bond movie.

Steve Carell was the perfect choice for character Maxwell Smart. He embodies the lovable “sad sack” created by Don Adams in the TV version and (wisely) decides to avoid trying to mimic Adam’s strident voice and cadence of speech.

Anne Hathaway is Agent 99, filling the role created by Barbara Feldon. 99 always was the smarter, stronger of the pair, but in the film version, Hathaway is given full reign and brings the character to her full potential. She’s smart, sexy, strong and nobody’s fool.

As the film opens, Max does not yet have agent status. He’s an analyst for Control, a CIA/FBI/Secret Service sort of agency, and is valuable in that capacity.

When a crisis – agents of KAOS are distributing nuclear material – breaks out, Max has his dream come true and is elevated to agent status. He’s Agent 86 and paired with 99, who, at first, isn’t all too happy about the situation.

But Max proves his mettle, even if rather clumsily. He and 99 are on the trail of the KAOS agent known as Sigfried, played by the always-engaging Terence Stamp. While that trail is filled with laughs, there also are lots of worthy action scenes that keep the film as exciting as it is fun.

As far as made-from-TV films go, “Get Smart” is more intelligent than most. It’s good summer movie fun.

Of local interest, Springfield’s own Joe Bauer supervised the special effects in the film. Bauer, who worked on the “Mike Malibu Show” and others on Fox 27, went on to do effects on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and has worked on a number of films including “Elf” and “Fantastic 4: The Rise of the Silver Surfer.”

Jim Wunderle owns Wunderle Sound Services and is a Springfield freelance writer and musician. He can be reached at info@wunderlesound.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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