Written by: Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember, based on the show by Mel Brooks & Buck Henry
Directed by: Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin, Dwayne Johnson, Terence Stamp
My Advice: Rental.
Maxwell Smart (Carell) has a dream. He wants to become a field agent for CONTROL, the organization that’s so super secret they had to stage their own dissolution after the Cold War. But they’re still around and still protecting the world from KAOS. Trouble is, KAOS has gotten the upper hand thanks to the machinations of Siegfried (Stamp) and a lot of CONTROL agents have been put on the bench. Or, you know, killed outright. Thus it’s up to the two agents that CONTROL still has under wraps, Agent 99 (Hathaway) and Smart himself, to get to the bottom of what’s happening and save the world.
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One of the two reasons why this film scored as high as it did with me is the obvious reverence that these guys have for their source material. And that says something to me. When you have Carell and company smart enough to acknowledge their creative roots on the film in the film, that speaks at least a bit of awareness, which should not be smacked. I know it’s been mentioned elsewhere what all they did, but I’ll refrain from specifying so as not to spoil anything.
The second reason is Dalip Singh, bka The Great Khali, a seven-foot-plus wrestler who could be the new Richard Kiel. He has what might be the best line of the summer.
Now, to the cast. Carell does well enough with the role, although I think his funniest moment was already shown in the trailer, where he and Stamp logically work out why Max can’t be from CONTROL. Stamp is Stampâ€”very little explanation is needed. Hathaway holds her own and tries her best to make the relationship with Max mean something. Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock finally gets into a respectable film. I like him a lotâ€”I think he just needs better material overall. Also of note is Alan Arkin, who’s good in everything. There are a number of cameosâ€”some work, some are headscratchers. The best is probably the most obvious choice for a cameo as some sort of secret agent, seeing as how he’s in such a popular animated series. I can say no more.
Now to the rest of it. It’s not a standout comedy in that it acts like most comedies these days. When it’s funny, it’s actually really funny. And when it’s stupid, it’s actually really, really stupid. And sometimes it just smashes the funny into a fine stupid powder, like with a recurring gag involving a mini-crossbow. It might have been funny the first time, but the sixteenth? Um. No. The result is something that is eminently forgettable when you walk out of the cinema. It might make for a decent rental, but big screen? Not necessary.