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At the Movies: Get Smart Got Dumb: Get Smart **1/2

Memo to Hollywood filmmakers: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Perhaps this is irrelevant because the desire to make money is what fuels this flame. Nonetheless, there really isn’t any way of improving on the original 60s TV show, Get Smart. It was perfect as it was.

Nonetheless, if any actor was born to revive the role of Maxwell Smart it has to be Steve Carell. If only he’d stuck to the original formula and played Smart as the dumb schmuck he was – which brought the show most of, if not all of, its humor. Instead, Carell played Smart almost straight – made him compassionate and sweet as only Carell can do – made him a lover and fighter. While this makes the current film version of Get Smart moderately enjoyable, it also makes the original show shimmer by comparison.

After all, how does one compete with Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, creators of the original series? No one can. Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt, and the many gifted supporting players were an absolutely perfect ensemble. You can’t really improve upon perfect.

The only problem is that many of us who remember the series fondly are older than the majority of the money that floods the multiplex. The show is over 40 years old now, believe it or not, and thus, it’s understandable why the filmmakers would have chosen to make the film appeal to a wider audience rather than Get Smart purists.

The film begins with Smart becoming Agent 86 and meeting Agent 99 (a curvy Anne Hathaway). 99 is, as has become a cliché these days, a high kicking, humorless expert who ultimately needs saving in the end. Why has it become sexy to watch women hit and kick like men? I for one will be relieved when this trend dies.

Peppered throughout are references that harken back to the TV show, like the Cone of Silence, “Missed it by THAT much,” and “Sorry about that, chief,” but they all kind of land with a thud. Perhaps they should have been taken out completely since they do not suit Carell’s brand of humor.

That said, the film is funny enough in its own right, whether it matches the genius of the original or not. Carell is particularly gifted with physical comedy and the scenes where he is brutalized by his own haplessness is not unlike what we’ve seen him do so many times before – in fact, his Maxwell Smart could be the sequel to his 40 Year Old Virgin character. He is so good at physical shtick that if you’re looking for a few guffaws to chase the troubles away, this film is your best bet.Although the film took the number one spot at the box office, the critics were divided. The TV series is a hard act to follow and the best the film can do, other than make a boatload of cash, is cut a pathway back to the original so that those whose parents weren’t even born when the series aired have a chance to rediscover this buried treasure.

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