The Re-Make Express keeps rollin’ its way down the box office tracks with no end in sight. There are re-makes of classic movies. Re-makes of classic TV shows (is “Three’s Company: The Movie” so far fetched)? Re-makes of Re-makes! The latest ‘re-imagining’ turns out to be the beloved “Get Smart,” the show about a bumbling spy, who despite his unknowing ineptitude, thwarted comedic villains intent on world domination every week on TV. I watched the show as a kid and so badly wanted some shoes with a secret phone in them. I still do. And with merchandising what it is, I’ll probably get a pair that’ll hold an iPhone. Anyway, they tried to re-make the TV series almost three decades ago with Don Adams still in the role of Maxwell Smart and now it’s Steve Carell exploring a brand-new kind of “Office” over at the place called “Control.” The Smack is On!
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“Get Smart” (the 2.0 version) opens with the classic theme and Secret Agent 86 walking down a long hall past high-tech security doors to a simple telephone booth that drops him down into Control Headquarters. But this isn’t your Grandpa’s Control Headquarters. Nope. This is the New and Improved Control (with a healthy budget for all the CGI).
In a bit of inspired casting, Steve Carell assumes the Maxwell Smart role, but here he’s a Computer Analyst who dreams of becoming a Field Agent. It seems Control is more like High School with its clicks of the “cool” spies (the Jocks) who look down on the Computer Nerds (the, uhm, Nerds).
After several attempts Max finally passes the field agent exam but is kept where he ‘can do the most good’ — in the office. That is until the evil, criminal organization known as KAOS attacks HQ, and picks off Control Agents around the globe. So Max gets his chance, partnered with the more experienced Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). There’s enough globetrotting and well-executed action to keep today’s audience’s satisfied.
There are several stand out performances from Alan Arkin as the Chief, Dwayne (‘Don’t Call Me The Rock’) Johnson as Uber Agent 23, and Terence Stamp as evil Kaos Arms Dealer, Siegfried. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the cameos by Bill Murray (underused as Agent 13, disguised as a Tree) and — if you’re really a fan of the series — you’ll recognize Bernie Kopell (the original Siegfried).
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The Defending Champion
“The Nude Bomb” reminds us there’s only one Don Adams who played the loveable, bumbling Agent 86 on the Mel Brooks-Buck Henry TV series “Get Smart” from 1965-1970. In this theatrical movie, a decade later Maxwell Smart is back in action, trying to thwart Kaos, still up to it’s old tricks. This time, a villain (who wears pantyhose over his head) has developed a ‘nude bomb’ that destroys all known fabric. Unless demands are met, the world will be naked! (A proposition that’s either good or bad, depending on who you’re standing next to).
Very much like the TV show, this movie is gag heavy. The budget, for the time, must have been substantial with new and improved gadgets (Stapler Phone anyone?) and a Bachelor Pad that’d make Hugh Hefner jealous (a car rises in the middle of the living room for quick access).
What’s missing? How about series regulars Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Edward Platt as the Chief?! Instead we get (the presumably Younger and Blonder) Andrea Howard as Agent 22 and (the serviceable) Dana Elcar as the (new?) Chief. Same Old Max with a different supporting cast. That’s like wearing a new suit with the same ole shoe phone — it just doesn’t match.
“Would you believe..?”
Both films have virtually the same plot! Kaos has Bombs they’ll rain down on the world unless it’s paid off. In the “Nude Bomb” it’s a, well, nude bomb, but a bomb by any other name…
The Update kept all the key elements from the show, the gadgets and the comedy, while creating more developed characters who made us care for them. If you put both these movies in a timecapsule, opened it in a hundred years and watched them they’d (for better of worse) accurately portray the decades they were made.
The new “Get Smart” was smart to update the concept while still paying homage to its predecessor. Hathaway thus has a stronger, more developed character than Feldon’s TV counter-part, but she’s not as alluring (at least not to the memories of a horny teen). In the age of remakes you often groan at the thought of rehashing a beloved classic but the new (and improved) “Get Smart” is one that works and I’m “loving it.” The original Get Smart movie, “The Nude Bomb,” while it has the nostalgia factor going for it, ultimately “missed it by that much.” Score one for Steve Carell.