Posted by: Ken Brown | June 20, 2008

Get Smart Review

So my wife and I saw Get Smart tonight. All around it’s more mindless than Smart, but a lot of fun. It does include a fair bit of sexual humor, some skimpy outfits (including a shot of Steve Carell’s bare butt), and lots of bloodless violence, but otherwise it’s a relatively clean PG-13. There’s plenty of action and a good dose of the quirky humor that I loved in the TV show (always a favorite when I used to watch Nick at Night), including a few truly hilarious moments. Steve Carell does a great job in the role of Maxwell Smart, and Anne Hathaway (apart from some excessive eye make-up) balances him well; even Dwane “The Rock” Johnson seems to be enjoying himself.

But my favorite line comes from the terrorists. About half way through, the baddies at KAOS are discussing their plans to nuke Los Angeles and the underling (Shtarker; played by Ken Davitian) says to his superior (Conrad Siegfried; played by Terence Stamp): “Seems a shame to kill all those Hollywood celebrities.” Siegfried replies with perfect sarcasm: “Yes, how will we survive without their razor-sharp political commentary?”

At other times, the film seems to forget it’s supposed to be a spoof at all and becomes a decent action movie, but just when you start taking it seriously they throw all believability out the window (literally, in several cases). All in all, despite Rottentomatoes only having it at 51%, Robert Ebert gets it right:

It’s funny, exciting, preposterous, great to look at, and made with the same level of technical expertise we’d expect from a new Bond movie.

Good popcorn flick.

[Updated 6:oo am]

[Update 2] Upon further reflection, the plot makes even less sense than I had realized (for instance, dozens of nukes are mentioned, but only one is ever accounted for. The rest are not left as a teaser for a sequal; they are simply forgotten by the end). Ah well, I still enjoyed it.

Todd Hertz at Christianity Today, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy it quite as much, but he did point out a good theme that I overlooked:

One interesting thread to the plot is Smart’s care for individuals—even if they’re employed by KAOS. Often, Smart discusses how our enemies are humans, too. “They do bad things, but that’s only what they do—not always who they are,” he says. That theme comes to a head in the film’s middle when Smart shows that compassion for an individual can truly be mightier than violence.

In fact, the scene to which he refers is a rare treat for an action movie: an attempt to actually love your enemies, to convert or save a villain rather than just to thoughtlessly destroying them. It’s played for comic effect, but it ends up being rather central to the film’s resolution. Maybe Get Smart isn’t so mindless after all….


  1. but the “terrorists are humans too” isn’t to show the humanity or souls of persons as much as it is to show the spies, “look, they are humans, let’s exploit their faults, catch them, arrest them or put an end to them.” the CT article is wrong on this, in my opinion.

  2. I don’t know about that. Remember on the rooftop, Smart had a gun and every opportunity to use it to defend himself against his attacker, but chose instead to treat him with compassion (even putting the gun down to earn his trust), and actually won him over to his side rather than merely arresting or destroying him. It came across as a bit cheesy, but it’s still better than the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach taken by most action films.

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