Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Get Smart

Lowdown: A lackluster spy saves the day and all.
Unlike many of my peers, I never got to see the Get Smart TV series. I've heard rumors about it, giving me the impression it was rather silly, but that was it; enough to make renting the new film version a rather low priority affair. Eventually I did rent it, though, and I'm quite happy with that: Get Smart is a rather smart laugh at the classic spy actions film genre represented by James Bond and his peers.
Get Smart follows Steve Carell as he portrays an incompetent intelligence gatherer at an American spy agency called SMART. Carell is a guy traumatized by his obese past, but he loses his weight in his quest to become a field agent. His dream comes true when SMART's real field agents have been compromised and new agents are sought. Together with his assigned partnet, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), they go on to investigate the events that led to SMART's breach of security, and together they stumble upon a conspiracy staged by the evil organization KAOS to use atomic weapons for some nasty purpose. In order to ward off the threat our couple goes off to Russia, where they make a big mess of themselves. Without spoiling the obvious fun, I can assure you that eventually Carell's unlikely hero saves the day.
The thing about Get Smart is that it is right on the border between being an action film and a comedy. That is, there is never any doubt about it being a comedy, but there is enough well crafted Bond style action to ensure this is more than just a satire. The balance is just about right for Get Smart to sarcastically mock those action films taking themselves too seriously, with many a scene evoking famous action scenes of yonder. There is a scene where Carell does a sexy dance with an obese woman while at a party hosted by a mega-rich mega-baddie, ala True Lies; there are scenes from Moscow's Red Square ala Bond/Bourne; and there's a scene where Carell and Hathaway flex their bodies to the max in order to penetrate a laser defended safe area ala Entrapment. The best example I can give, though, is for the climax scene being exactly like the climax scene from Eagle Eye - the evil plot is exactly the same - yet Eagle Eye takes itself seriously while Get Smart gives the likes of Eagle Eye the piss.
The well balanced formula works incredibly effectively, but it's all aided by the acting. There can be no doubt of Carell's talent for comedies, and there can be no doubt of Hathaway being a high quality actress; nothing like the normal bimbo cast for her looks we normally get at these film satires (or, come to think of it, in the serious action films these satires are mocking in the first place). Interestingly enough, the film comes up with a stupid twist to explain the pairing of Carell with a woman that could have been his daughter. With a good supporting cast including The Rock, Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp, Get Smart provides a smart silly comedy satire that is well made.
Memorable scene: Carell kisses The Rock on the mouth. My point here is simple: The Rock, or rather Dwayne Johnson, has turned out to be a very nice actor with an undeniable talent for comedy. The fact this muscly dude does not shy from being kissed onscreen by another guy indicates he could have the brains to go with the body.
Technical assessment: There are some inconsistencies with the picture, which often makes the overuse of blue screens during the shooting way too obvious. However, it's the sound that takes center stage with this Blu-ray: it is simply the worst I have experienced on Blu-ray. For a start, Get Smart offers only a DVD quality lossy Dolby Digital soundtrack; the main problem, though, is that this soundtrack sounds awful, making my ears feel like they're being tortured. I don't know what went wrong with the sound, but it suffers from hisses, often unintelligible dialog, and lots of inconsistencies.
Overall: Surprisingly good for a comedy of this type. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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