'Get Smart': Still Inept, But in All the Wrong Ways TV's beloved secret-agent spoof gets a big-screen update — but like its bumbling hero, the film is constantly trying to be something it's not. The result: an unfunny comedy spliced with an unexciting spy caper.
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'Get Smart': Still Inept, But in All the Wrong Ways

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'Get Smart': Still Inept, But in All the Wrong Ways

Review

Arts & Life

'Get Smart': Still Inept, But in All the Wrong Ways

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's consider another way to get smart. That was the name of a 1960s television show, and now it's the name of a film which is reviewed this morning by Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN: "Get Smart" is a film mistaken about its own identity. It's based on one of the great 1960s TV comedies, so you'd think being funny would be its main goal. But you would be wrong - very, very wrong. Like its protagonist, overmatched secret agent Maxwell Smart, "Get Smart" yearns to be something it's not.

Determined for some reason to walk in the footsteps of James Bond, "Get Smart" neglects the laughs and amps up the action. That results in a not-very-funny comedy joined at the hip to a not-very-exciting spy movie. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

(Soundbite of movie, "Get Smart")

Get Smart is also an origins story of sorts. It shows us how desk-bound analyst Smart - played by Steve Carell - finally gets his chance to work in the field for super-secret spy agency CONTROL. He's up against experienced bad guys like the shrewd Siegfried, played by Terence Stamp.

(Soundbite of movie, "Get Smart")

Mr. TERENCE STAMP (As Siegfried): Who are you?

Mr. STEVE CARELL (As Maxwell Smart): My name is Nudnik Spilkus. Who are you?

Mr. STAMP: I am Siegfried.

Mr. CARELL: I understand that you're the man to see if someone is interested in acquiring items of a nuclear nature.

Mr. STAMP: How do I know you're not CONTROL?

Mr. CARELL: If I were CONTROL you'd already be dead.

Mr. STAMP: If you were CONTROL you'd already be dead.

Mr. CARELL: Well, neither of us is dead, so I'm obviously not from CONTROL.

TURAN: The new "Get Smart" brings back many of the trademarks of the TV series, from the iconic shoe phone to robot agent Hymie to the dread Cone of Silence. But they've also decided to retool Maxwell Smart's inept personality into someone who is actually moderately capable. Not very funny.

Even less funny is "Get Smart"'s determination to turn itself into what the studio is calling an action comedy, complete with a wide range of perfunctory stunts. Who knows what the late Don Adams, who starred in the TV original, would have thought of this misadventure. If you've never experienced Adams in his prime, brief clips available on YouTube provide more laughs than this entire benighted enterprise. Save your money and smile for free.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan watches movies like that and reviews them for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times.

(Soundbite of "Get Smart" theme music)

INSKEEP: You can also hear critic Bob Mondello's take on Mike Myers' new flick, "The Love Guru," and many more reviews at npr.org.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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