With films like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Car 54 Where Are You?” emptying theaters faster than “Speed Racer” - the rule of thumb has generally been nothing but disappointment when it comes to remaking beloved TV comedies.
But happily the new adaptation of the spy spoof “Get Smart” proves to be the exception to that rule. Although not quite as smart as its predecessor, “Get Smart” glides back thanks to a capable cast that is able to carry the film just enough to get by.
Steve Carell takes the place of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, who when the movie begins is dreaming of finally becoming a field agent for the secret government agency CONTROL.
When CONTROL’s agents are compromised, Max gets his chance - joining forces with a reluctant Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to try to stop Siegfried (Terrance Stamp), the mastermind behind the enemy faction CHAOS.
“Get Smart” has two big flaws that nearly sink the film. The first is a rather pedestrian script that could have been used for pretty much any action comedy ever made. Screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember do sprinkle the films with moments of humor, but nothing is ever as clever as fans of the TV show (which was created by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks) remember.
The other problem is the rather bloated two-hour running time, which feels like it has about one too many chases for its own good.
But I managed to leave “Get Smart” willing to overlook those flaws, largely because the talented cast won me over.
Carell does Adams proud, making the Maxwell Smart role his own.
Hathaway has never looked better and has surprisingly good chemistry with Carell (even if their romantic tension was overdone at times).
The supporting cast is just as good - including Alan Arkin as the chief, former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as another CONTROL agent and James Caan as a George Bush-like president.
“Get Smart” doesn’t have a lot of laugh out loud moments, but it does have plenty of chuckles, which is just enough to make it miles better than the other new comedy - the disastrous Mike Myers vehicle “The Love Guru.”
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Vantage Point” (B), the stylishly slick action flick that doesn’t exactly tread into unfamiliar territory, but is still quite entertaining.
“Vantage Point” takes a simple premise: an attempted assassination of the president (William Hurt) during a world peace conference in Spain. The story evolves over about an hour time frame leading up to and directly following the event, with the story being told from the perspective of eight different people.
Among the points of view are the president, a veteran CIA agent (Dennis Quaid), an American tourist (Forest Whitaker) and a CNN-type television producer (Sigourney Weaver). Each person offers a different vantage point, unlocking more clues about who is behind the assassination attempt.
Director Pete Travis takes this premise and milks it for every ounce of drama he can muster. The film gleefully shifts back and forth in time, tying up one loose end only to leave another thread dangling.
I will admit “Vantage Point” doubles back a few too many times, but for the most part it’s a pretty fun ride.
“Vantage Point” is also aided by a very solid cast that helps to sell a premise that I’ll admit nearly spins out of control at the final turn.
This isn’t one of the most memorable thrillers in recent memory, but it does have its moments - just enough to warrant a second look on DVD.
“Vantage Point” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence and action, some disturbing images and brief strong language and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton - whose own brief experience in a car chase ended when he realized he was simply in a one-lane construction zone on Interstate 65, and that the big-rig behind him wasn’t necessarily trying to flatten him so much as warm-mix asphalt - can be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.