I love movies, though I don’t get to see nearly as many as I’d like. I love television, and I watch a lot of it. Some friends would say I watch too much. Occasionally I’d even say I watch too much, but clearly my love of television overrides the angels of my better nature.
For all my love of words, my confidence in my own opinion, and my love of sharing it with others (!), I have never written a movie review. No blurbs for Amazon, none for the Internet Movie Database. I barely even write reviews for friends, preferring instead to link them to a review from a professional whose opinion I happen to agree with.
But today I saw Get Smart, the big screen remake of the 1965-70 TV series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. And I was thoroughly charmed by it. Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, as Agents 86 and 99, respectively, are absolutely perfect and hit all the right notes, as do their castmates.
The old TV series was a staple in my house, and I liked much of it, though some of the comical bits became cartoonish or hackneyed over time. I think probably I have more affinity for Buck Henry’s humor than Mel Brooks’s, and I think I can see whose touch predominates at any given time in the series.
That dichotomy isn’t nearly as apparent in the film. In fact, it feels more like Steve Carell’s brand of humor. It has a humanity, a pathos that underlies the comedy. The movie pays appropriate homage to the series, but deftly brings a new dimension to it. Maxwell Smart is actually quite smart in the film—the Chief doesn’t want to promote him from senior technical analyst to agent because he’s simply too good at his job. His famous bumbling arises more because he overthinks everything, and because he hasn’t learned to separate his heart from his mind—though that is also the character’s greatest asset throughout the movie.
In fact, I’d say the emotional poignancy that Maxwell Smart evokes is the most unexpected aspect of the film, and its most welcome contribution. There are tons of laughs—really good ones, made even better if you’re familiar with the TV series—and some terrific action sequences. But the belly laughs never come at the expense of misfits; in fact, the stock targets of movie mockery (fat people, gay people, geeks, even gigantic brutes) are lovingly played with, and the tables are invariably turned on their tormentors.
So: I’m no good at awarding stars, or thumbs-up-or-down assessments, but I will say that I enjoyed Get Smart very much indeed, and highly recommend it for both its honest humor and its unexpected heart.