Elaine at the movies : Get Smart

Elaine Blum

“Get Smart” might have been less disappointing had I not even vaguely remembered the original show. By itself, the movie is enjoyable enough. There are some funny lines and effective situational humor. However, you cannot ignore that it fails to represent the television series. The movie does not capture the wit and subtlety of the original.
Steve Carell does manage to capture Maxwell Smart quite well. He is an incredibly intelligent agent who means well, but often finds himself the butt of comical mishaps. He makes funny blunders, but he manages to be lovable and ultimately gets the job done. All in all, Carell nails Max Smart.
However, Anne Hathaway is not Agent 99. I do not remember Agent 99 being so frigid in the series. Yes, she was a little aloof and mysterious, but Hathaway goes far beyond aloof straight to snobby.
As her relationship with Smart develops, we are supposed to see a gradual softening of her character. This emotional turn is abrupt and unbelievable. We are supposed to believe a sudden switch from her icy persona to compassionate? I don’t think so.
To complete the misrepresentation, by the end of the movie, Agent 99 has completely lost her edge. She morphs from icy snob to an outright stereotype: the overly emotional girl in love. At no point in the movie do we see the true, classic, mysteriously aloof Agent 99.
The movie also fails to showcase the cool spy gadgetry that was a mainstay of the show. The only gadgets that survive from the show are the “cone of silence” and the shoe phone, my personal favorite. Neither of them is done justice. The “cone of silence” has a face-lift to make it more modern and, thus, is hardly recognizable.
When the shoe phone finally comes into play, it is way overdue. It was such a staple in the series that its absence from most of the film is painfully obvious. I cheered when I finally saw it pressed to Carell’s ear, since I had been waiting the whole movie to see it. Then its coolness is almost ruined by the overly emotional speech that Carell delivers to Hathaway. The shoe phone deserves more airtime!
There are also scenes that involve disgusting or crude humor, which would never have been in the show. Yes, it was a television show of the 60s and is therefore much more limited in the kind of humor that it could use. However, the show was also too classy to resort to such low humor as is depicted in parts of the movie. No one needs to see Steve Carell puking into a paper bag — this is irrelevant to the story.
Finally, I wish I could personally write a letter to filmmakers everywhere who overuse the shaky camera effect. Not only does it give the audience a headache, but it is distracting and hard to watch. Dear filmmakers: Use a steady camera so I can enjoy the movie!