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Get Smart: Two-Disc Special Edition

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // November 4, 2008
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted November 4, 2008 | E-mail the Author

The Film:

Get Smart is a silly, absurdly goofy action comedy that's a shameless parody of a parody -- and I couldn't have had a better time with it. Normally screwball comedies prancing around with an over-saturation of paradoxical humor just don't do it for me, but the formula concocted with subtle throwbacks, new comedic timing, and legitimately engaging action sequences entertained with the best of its summer blockbuster counterparts. It's a far cry from being an ideal, non-stop adaptation of its more culturally "significant" predecessor -- a television show that alleviated America's Cold War suspicions and fears by poking and prodding at James Bond debonair slickness -- but it makes certain to capture the same nonsensical essence of Get Smart's interworking by feeding off of pure charisma for its attitude.

As to be expected, Get Smart powers forward on the steam of its charismatic cast and not the material from its light, airy adapted script. At the center is Steve Carell ("The Office") as Maxwell Smart, a bookworm-ish agent for CONTROL that has the smarts but lacks the gusto for being a field agent. He writes 600+ page reports of hackneyed missions and suffers from the ridicule splashing from his co-workers, while also swimming in the shadow of the organization's star agent -- Agent 23, played just about perfectly from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Southland Tales). Carell's brand of humor almost seems specially crafted for this flavor, all hoity-toity nonsense and jaded aspiration from a not-so-dapper Dan. In that, he adds his own dashes to Maxwell Smart, while also taking a few ingredients from Don Adams' facial mannerisms and lively eyes to at least give a steady trickle of influence from the original. Just imagine if a dialed-down version Michael Scott and a detached 40-Year-Old Virgin Andy mashed together and wanted to be a superspy: that's Carell's Max.

Get Smart's plot practically screams its intentions from the trailers, as you can probably guess: tension has mounted within CONTROL, terrorist organization KAOS (yang to CONTROL's yin) has started doing ... something with radical explosives, and ole' Maxwell Smart gets his chance to prove himself as the espionage hero he's always aspired to be. But he won't be alone; he hooks up with the minx-y rogue Agent 99, a role with which Anne Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain) gets the chance to prove her semi-lead chops by rustling up charisma, sauciness, and a penchant for sly humor -- and she nails it, much to my delight. She's a lot of fun to watch but, much like Carell and the rest of the supporting cast, you rarely get wrapped up in the story to a degree where you drop the actor-character connections. But that never really matters, much the way it doesn't with the likes of the sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest or in Alex Payne's deadpan satire Election. It's a matter of acceptance, and a lot of humor begins to spill from the seams once that point is reached.

Based off of the '60s spy spoof starring Don Adams, Get Smart acts more as a lengthy throwback sketch with quick, rambling quip-style writing than a tangible satire of current espionage concepts. It ignores the chance to stab at many of the recent spy film mannerisms a la Casino Royale and Bourne Ultimatum that might be rife for the riffing, though it does borrow a bit from their aesthetics -- like Greengrass' shaky-cam movement -- to create the ambiance ripe for its silliness. Of course, something that probably sat in the back of the producer's minds was a firm ideal that they didn't want to throw together a mockery of the recent money-making flicks a la Epic Movie or Date Movie, especially when they're working with a sizeable budget. Many a Get Smart fan probably thank them for not going too far with their digs and pokes, yet I'd have a difficult time seeing much of a direct connection between affection for the Brooks-Henry '60s TV series and Peter Segal's rehash.

Aside from the CONTROL name, oversight from the Chief (Alan Arkin, Gattaca), and a few scattered relics across the film -- including quick cameos of the original Cone of Silence and shoe phone, as well as a modernized rendition of the theme song -- that's about all the direct Get Smart-ness available for plain sight, which is plenty. However, there's a host of goofy new contraptions that Max gets to fiddle around with that, much like Get Smart's paradoxical reflection on James Bond tools, are hit-and-miss in delivering the funny. Maybe it's because of the obnoxious Bruce and Lloyd duo, played by Masi Oka of "Heroes" fame and Nate Torrence, but the introduction of the new Cone of Silence falls very, very flat early in the film. However, when Max gets a hold of a multifaceted, high-gadgetry pocket knife and starts to put it to "practical" use in an airline bathroom stall, there's both reflective and fresh situational/slapstick humor to be found. A lot of it, actually, as that particular scene served up the film's first noteworthy laughs.

Instead, Get Smart's overstuffed paint-by-numbers spy rhythm becomes an indulgence -- an imperfect, slippery, touch-and-go indulgence that has more charisma than acuity, more charm than proficiency. But, most importantly, it's a lot of fun and a lot more comical and explosive than planned. There's a scene in particular involving lasers, tuxedoes, motion-sensors, an agile Hathaway, and a half-clumsy, half-graceful Carell that becomes a picture-perfect of Get Smart's artillery. It becomes all about the banter between the two, watching Agent 99 worm in and out of situations with the upmost suaveness as a legit spy, and soaking in Smart aka Agent 86 stumble over similar scenarios with about as much enduring poise as a drunken party boy waltzing through a room full of bear traps. This becomes Carell's foray into a summer blockbuster that's pure slapstick, never ingenious, and almost always entertaining to at least a few dials in the right direction. In short, Get Smart stays pretty darn stupid, but it has a blast in relishing in all the inanely-comedic, boisterous action-infused lunacy -- which, with popcorn and soda in hand, makes for a uncomplicated and romping good time.

The DVD:

Warner Bros. has presented Get Smart in a standard double-disc case adorned with a lenticular slipcover that features Carell and Hathaway struggling for space on the front. Inside there's an instruction leaflet that gives you the authorization code to get your copy of Get Smart for your iTunes, as well as a promotional insert for Blu-ray technology. Worth noting is that Disc One of this two-disc set doesn't read "Disc One" anywhere, only "Widescreen" -- which leads me to believe that the first disc will probably be extremely similar to (if not exactly like) the one-disc edition.

The Video:

It looks like Get Smart may have been opened up a little bit for its home video presentation, as the image completely fills the screen with its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Overall, WB's transfer isn't a bad effort, but certainly has its share of problems. Backdrops, palette solidity, and edge emphasis all exhibit a lackluster digital competence, as larger spans of otherwise well-represented color and flesh tones exhibit obvious blocking and digital pixelation that fizzle out an incredible attractively-photographed action film. Some minor details etch through well, like the contours of up-close guns, some fabrics, and a few other textures, but overall it's a pretty bland, somewhat muddy image that doesn't show off the film's rich visual renderings in the ways that it probably should.

The Audio:

Thankfully, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes up for a good portion of the visual's foibles, as Get Smart thunders and booms alongside some of its other action-based counterparts. Explosions, gunfire, mid-range shows, and overall dynamic range impress with their fidelity. Verbal clarity also gets a lot right, as dialogue is rarely -- if ever -- distorted or inaudible. Especially potent is the usage of the lower-frequency, which can be both loud and properly pitched with a plump span of differing bass effects. Furthermore, all of the kitschy adapted musical accompaniments sounded fantastic as they rang through the speakers, never holding too odd of a balance with speech or effects across the surrounding soundstage. It's a pretty darn good track that helps to invigorate the film's lively nature. English, French, and Spanish audio options are available, as are subtitle options for each language.

The Extras:

On Disc 1:

Comedy Optimization for 62% More "Laughs":
Essentially, this can be seen as a semi-interactive menu function that allows the viewing of Deleted and Alternate sequences for many of the film's funnier moments. With this option selected, an image of Carell in a phone booth with a small remote comes on-screen as a prompt to hit the "Enter" button on your remote to play the scenes. Some of them are beefed-up versions of the same scene, a completely deleted sequences, or a slew of alternate recording of several on-the-fly strings of dialogue. The material can be funny but, like most deleted scenes, they're not quite as funny as the actual takes that make it into the film. Notable are an extended sequence with Bill Murray in the tree, a few extra lines involving Max tossing as he tosses the phone, and a cute extended sequence involving a miscommunication between CONTROL and Max during the party scene.

Overall, this is a humdrum presentation of Deleted Scenes and Alternate takes that made me wish for a segmented option for viewing all the Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes -- an option that's not there. Also, when the film integrates one of these deleted scenes, it switches over to Dolby 2.0 Stereo instead of its surround counterpart.

On Disc 2:

The Right Agent for the Right Job:
Focus falls on Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway and their dynamic as the two CONTROL agents. It's a shorter assembly featurette at a little over ten minutes, but the amount of behind-the-scenes material, rehersal footage, and extra takes paired with interview footage makes a dialed-in and solid piece. It's a solid, well-condensed watch

Max in Moscow:
Six minutes of material here concentrate on filming in Russia, along with the writing aspects of capturing the story in the "origin" place of the series' source of tension. Great accompany footage of Carell and Hathaway with Russia in their backdrop makes this a fun piece, as well as informative once they start soaking into the souting process and filming schedule.

Language Lessons:
Steve Carell takes the helm and pokes fun at several languages, nothing that really pertains to spoken languages in the film.

Also included are a five-minute (5) Gag Reel, and a Sneak Peek at Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control -- a direct-to-video subplot film featuring the two characters.


Final Thoughts:

If you're neither a fan of Steve Carell nor of overexaggerated, bluntly goofy humor, then Get Smart might not be the right fit for you. However, if the likes of Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express gave you a few chuckles at the theater -- or if a blend of laughs and explosions, such as a version of Lethal Weapon with some eyeroll-worthy lines and more gadgets get the job done -- then this loose adaptation of the '60s television series should offer up a healthy serving of laughs an excitement. Key thing to note here is that attachment to the series doesn't really seem to be a prerequisite, as I felt that being a running Nick-at-Nite devotee during its re-run span didn't really enhance my core enjoyment. It'll just reveal a few of its little hidden eccentricities while the others watching it with will soak it in much in the same fashion. WB's package isn't a bad effort, but the lack of very many supplements and a merely satisfactory transfer earn this package a understated Recommendation.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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