Get Smart is a movie that has to overcome unique obstacles just in its concept. Its television forerunner is not only a unique style of humor, but let’s face it, it’s stupid by design. For any chance at the level of success a film version needs, you have to find a way past the initial reaction of a great many people who are going to hear, “Get Smart movie,” and dismiss the thing out of hand. On the other side of the difficulty coin, there is simply no such thing as replacing Don Adams. If you’re the one trying to put together a film, that leaves you with both friend and foe of the original series initially very nervous.
The only way to put a movie adaptation together is to completely rebuild. The comedy needs more mass appeal, and the project generally needs to focus on honoring the original rather than emulating it. The film lets us in on its strategy right from the beginning as it walks us through a CONTROL museum complete with iconic hardware from the series. From there, we’ve got to see an evolution of the general concept, and the audience has to be convinced that this is today’s Maxwell Smart. How the writing and directing team responsible for Failure to Launch, Tommy Boy, and Nutty Professor II (and not much else) managed it I’ll never know, but Get Smart actually works.
This incarnation sees Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) starting things off as simply an analyst working for CONTROL, but he dreams of the day when he will finally become an agent. When KAOS attacks CONTROL HQ and gets information that compromises the identity of CONTROL agents, Max gets his wish. Partnered up with all-star Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), the pair set off to save the world from KAOS’s terrorist plans.
It’s still a bumbling slapstick style driving most of the comedy, but this Max isn’t quite so far toward complete idiot. He’s just unfortunately uncoordinated, and Carell manages to infuse a bit of depth and a lot more heart into the character than was ever the point of the original. Get Smart makes a great decision in trying to shift the focus away from Max’s gags as much as possible. Sure, it is painful to sit through yet another “inhaling the blowgun dart” routine, but because the movie actually tries to put together a story you can forgive such things.
A movie can often benefit from low expectations, by exceeding them, and it almost seems that Get Smart knew well what it was probably up against here. As much as you feel the difficulty, there is such emphasis on the play between Carell and Hathaway, and on moving things at a solid pace, that it never really bogs down. Alan Arkin, as the Chief, and Dwayne “Rock” Johnson, as Agent 23, both step up with fine performances which keep the audience dancing right along. In some grand scheme this is a movie that is marginal at best, but it tries its little heart out, just like Max, and damned if I didn’t laugh quite a few times.
The DVD is a pretty nice package overall, and includes a feature I wish every DVD release would start including, although it's still not quite done right. There are about twenty minutes of deleted or alternate scenes, and you have the option to watch the movie with them included. Basically, throughout the film you get a little flag that gives you the option to switch over to whatever scene was deleted or changed. You then return to the normal play of the movie. The problem is that it’s the only way to watch them. It would definitely be nice to have the option of seeing if there is anything worth adding to the feature before you opt for having this thing pop up at you.
“The Right Agent for the Job” is a ten-minute special feature of a variety that DVD fans have, I think, grown universally bored with even in theory. It’s the standard “behind the scenes” which showcases the actors and filmmakers, and everyone talks about how great everyone else is, and how much they enjoy the project. This one is perhaps a bit more interesting than most, if only to get a bit of information on the casting choices. “Max in Moscow” is a roughly seven minute exploration of filming in Russia, and about all you can say about that is that it is what it is. It might be interesting to some, but it is very standard, whipped-together fare. “Language Lessons” is a three and a half minute run-on showing various stars of the film doing their best to speak other languages. The interest and/or theory of this feature eludes me completely.
The 2-disc version also includes a digital copy, a sneak peak for Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control, the straight-to-DVD movie featuring two throwaway characters from Get Smart, and several short featurettes. There is a gag reel that runs about six minutes, and as might be imagined is actually among the better versions of such a feature you’re going to find.
I'd like a standout feature of some sort, but overall this is not a bad release. Nothing overly suggests making your way over to the special features (or opting into the 2-disc set), but there is a little something there. The gag reel is almost worth it. The single-disc deleted scene inclusion is unfortunately the most interesting addition you’re going to get, and that makes it hard to recommend spending more money on a bigger version of things.