When KAOS reigns, there's only one man for the job: Maxwell Smart. But does this update of the beloved, bumbling, '60s superspy series stay true to the spirit of its predecessor?
Maxwell Smart, as his surname indicates, knows his stuff. He earns his keep as a fastidious, detail-oriented surveillance wonk in the employ of the super-secret government espionage agency known as CONTROL. Max is so skilled at aforementioned wonking, in fact, that even after he passes the field agent's exam, his boss, the Chief, informs him that he's too valuable to let go. Max, who's worked steadily toward his dream of becoming a field agent, is crushed. Nevertheless, he dutifully soldiers on.
All that changes, however, when agents from the nefarious super-evil organization known as KAOS somehow infiltrate CONTROL and begin bumping off its undercover operatives. So Max gets called up as Agent 86. He's partnered with Agent 99, a pretty female spy whose identity was the only one not compromised in the breach.
There's a little strain between the two as Max tries to prove his mettle in the field. But through his nerdy know-how and the use of some goofy gadgets, he soon stumbles upon KAOS' dastardly plot.
The problem is, nobody believes him. Agent 99 thinks he might be a double agent. And even Max doubts whether he's got the right stuff to succeed as a super spy.
Max: Don't tell me, the fate of the free world is in my hands?
99: Yes, Max, it's all in your hands.
Max: I asked you not to tell me!
Once Max gets his dream job, he puts his life on the line to do it well. That includes placing himself in mortal danger to save Agent 99's life. And even though she didn't want to work with the rookie at first, she eventually comes to respect him. Likewise, the Chief recognizes Max's hard work and dedication.
An anonymous person passing a window looks in to see Max attempting to move a heavyset man. From the outsider's perspective, it appears Max and the man are engaged in a sexual activity. The passerby grins before moving on.
CONTROL's receptionist wears a low-cut top. When macho Agent 23 saunters in, he winks and points in her direction, and she pantomimes "catching" that motion and tucks it into her cleavage while winking back. Several women at a party wear cleavage-baring gowns. We catch a quick glimpse of 99 in her bra and panties as she closes a robe. During an athletic escapade, she intentionally rips the lower part of her gown for easier movement, revealing a lot of leg. And as she slowly works her way through a laser-protected area, she catches Max ogling her rear.
When Max gets knocked down on top of 99 during a fight, he pauses there with his hand on her breast. She kisses a thug as a means of escape, and Max comically mirrors the same move later on when he kisses Agent 23. A couple shares romantic kisses. It's revealed that Agent 23 and Agent 99 once had a romantic relationship.
Max makes several jokes alluding to his genitalia. For example, he comments about going "free bird" while wearing boxer shorts. Later, he instructs 99 to get his knife out of his pocket with her foot and then laughs, saying, "That's not my knife." An old woman misconstrues Max's attempt to give her a password as a come-on and suggests that they have sex. Max taunts two prison guards by telling them he'll make both of them his "pretty little girls."
After an action scene, Max turns around in front of a crowd to show that the seat of his pants has been torn away, and his bare backside is exposed. Elsewhere, Max roughly grabs a woman's bottom while dancing with her.
Get Smart's violence is oddly uneven. The movie highlights plenty of slapstick shenanigans designed for laughs. Some of those pratfalls include a cart running over Max's toes, a water-spouting fire hose knocking agents flat and Max getting zinged by lasers as a rat runs around in his clothes.
In other scenes, the slapstick is more wince-inducing. We see guys get papers stapled to their foreheads and others viciously hit in the crotch. And when Max uses his Swiss Army knife's tiny crossbow in a misguided attempt to undo handcuffs, he predictably becomes a human pin cushion. Perhaps a dozen or so miniature crossbow bolts end up embedded in his face and elsewhere.
Beyond that, the filmmakers sometimes create a James Bond-lite atmosphere as Max and 99 punch and dropkick their way through scenes. Thugs get smashed in the face, throat and head. Others are shot in the chest at close range, hit by speeding vehicles and blown up in fiery explosions. At one point Max taunts prison guards, and it appears a comic scene will ensue—until the guards beat Max into a heap on the floor. Another jarringly violent sequence involves Max and 99 battling a seven-foot-tall henchman who knocks them down with a door, tosses them about like rag dolls and then hoists 99 into the air by the throat and punches her full in the face.
Crude or Profane Language
The s-word makes three appearances (once in Russian). We hear a half-dozen uses of "d--n" and a handful each of "h---," "b--ch" and "a--." "Frickin'" stands in for the f-word several times. God's name is misused on four or five occasions (once in Russian). A woman makes an obscene gesture.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Several people consume champagne and mixed drinks at a party. A thug smokes a cigarette.
Other Negative Elements
Max's bladder and an overflowing air-sick bag are the comedic crux of two scenes played for yuks (and yucks). An agent going through a custody battle is told to calm down because, "The kids don't even look like you."
If you're hoping the movie version of Get Smart resembles the 1965-70 TV spy spoof that inspired it, I can unequivocally say, "Sorry about that, Chief."
Steve Carell (who plays Maxwell Smart) and crew tip their hats to the series, tossing in a few of the show's original catchphrases and orchestrating cute cameos for Max's convertible Sunbeam and his shoe phone. But what you've got here is the old "use the title so you can grab fans' interest and then give them something totally different" trick.
That's not always a bad thing. After all, if the movie had strictly tried to imitate the Emmy Award-winning series, it probably would have fallen flat on its face faster than our clueless hero in a jujitsu fight. And I'll give credit where credit is due—Carell's dry, deadpan humor delivers some laugh-out-loud moments.
But that doesn't mean Get Smart got smart.
Mel Brooks, who co-created the original show with comedian Buck Henry, used to say that Maxwell Smart was a blend of James Bond and Inspector Clouseau—a blend that the TV show's star, Don Adams, captured with goofball panache.
But Carell's Max, not to mention the film's creators, apparently had a hard time getting this mix right. One minute we're in the telephone booth elevator on our way to CONTROL headquarters and having kid-friendly fun with a bumbling wannabe agent and his goofy gadgets. The next, we're bombarded with bloody fights, painful-looking crotch-thumpings and explosive death scenes. Likewise, old-school zaniness competes with decidedly new-school sexual innuendo and crude gags.
What we end up with is a remake that can't decide if it wants to spoof or thrill. Mumble or cuss. Goof or gag. This gawky muddle of clashing styles feels awkward at best. And more than once I hoped the young children sitting in front of me at the screening were too busy with their popcorn to notice what was happening onscreen.
So for any parents feeling nostalgic about a childhood favorite and considering carting the kids off to Hollywood's latest reboot, I'll sum things up with one last Maxwell Smart nugget: "They missed it by that much!" *
* Please note that I'm holding my hands waaaaayyyyyyy far apart.