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Get Smart (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 11/4/2008

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/2/2008

In my recent review for A Christmas Story, I touched on what it was like growing up in pre-cable TV times. With only a few channels from which to choose, the pickings were very slim indeed, especially during the day. In Summer, when it was too hot to play outside, or if there happened to be a sudden thunderstorm, most kids would want to head inside and flip on the tube. But, they would be met with soap operas, religious shows, or something not age appropriate on PBS. I distinctly remember that the independent station would show old TV shows, such as Love American Style, Petticoat Junction, and Mayberry RFD. I had no interest in those show, nor did I check out another oldie that would be shown -- Get Smart. I simply didn't have any interest in these (what seemed like) ancient shows. Could this have effected my enjoyment of the new Get Smart movie?

As Get Smart opens, we learn that CONTROL was an American intelligence agency which operated during the Cold War, but is now defunct...or so the public thinks. Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is a CONTROL operative who pours through recordings of foreign agents in order to gather intelligence. While Max is obsessive about his work, his real dream is to be a field agent. But, despite being teased by co-workers such as Agent 91 (Terry Crews) and Larabee (David Koechner) for his fastidiousness, he does his job quite well. When CONTROL headquarters is attacked, The Chief (Alan Arkin) promotes Max to Agent and assigns him to work with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to discover who is behind the assault. Max and 99 travel to Moscow and they soon learn that while Max may speak many languages and know how to compile a multi-page report, he's not very good as a field agent. Still, they must pool their resources if they hope to stop Siegfried (Terence Stamp), an international arms dealer.

As noted above, I don't know a great deal about the Get Smart TV show, but here's what I am aware of; Premiering in 1965, the show came from comedy legends Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It's easy to assume that the show was a comedic answer to the James Bond films and television shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Don Adams starred as Maxwell Smart on the show, a bumbling wise-guy who's catchphrase, "Missed it by that much." became his trademark. While the show featured espionage, as Max and Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) battled KAOS, the emphasis was on comedy.

Which leads us to the main problem with Get Smart the movie. The film can't decide if it wants to be an action movie or a comedy. When we see Steve Carell cast as Maxwell Smart, we are assuming that the movie will be a laughfest. And yet, Director Peter Segal must have felt that with films such as the Bourne movies, with their incredibly lavish stunts, being so popular, that he must have the same kind of action in his movie in order to make an impact.

The result is a movie which has no idea what it wants to be and one which can't create a consistent rhythm. We are treated to some very funny moments from Carell, as well as the other cast members, including Dwayne Johnson, who plays the suave Agent 23. But, the funny moments are then followed by action scenes which are, admittedly, quite well done. But, they also feel oddly out of place here. There's nothing wrong with mixing action and comedy, but it's difficult to go from Steve Carell performing yoga-esque moves to avoid laser security beams to a scene where he's suddenly shooting a bunch of people. And that's the crux of this issue: the jokes are jokey, but the violence is very real. Although Max is a bumbling agent, he's also a great shot and he has no qualms gunning people down.

But, as noted above, we're here to see Carell, and in that sense, Get Smart comes close to being satisfying. The actor proves once again that he's a master of deadpan comedy and he has a knack for playing someone who's slightly dumber than everyone around him. He is also a master of being very dry and yet quite sincere at the same time. There are a few moments where the slapstick gets out of control (see the scene in the airplane lavatory), but overall, Carell is in control here. If you go in understanding that the action scenes may throw off the flow of the film, then Get Smart can be a fun ride.

Get Smart remembers to get a new fish on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing essentially no grain and no defects from the source material. The sharpness of the image reveals good colors and a nice level of detail. The exterior landscape shots look great and there's no overt artifacting or edge-enhancement. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences, especially the finale, provide very good stereo and surround effects. We can hear the plane moving all around us in that last chase, and the stereo separation is quite good. The explosions provide solid subwoofer effects.

The Get Smart DVD contains several extras, spread across the two discs. On Disc 1, viewers can watch the film in "Smart Takes" mode. With this, an icon will appear on-screen which gives the viewer the option to see deleted scenes or alternate takes.

The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "The Right Agent for the Right Job" (10 minutes) looks at the casting of the film. We see audition footage with Carrell and Hathaway. We also get comments from the filmmakers, as well as Carrell, Hathaway, and Johnson. The piece also looks at the physical nature of the film. "Max in Moscow!" (6 minutes) gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how scenes were shot in Moscow. There is a great deal of on-set footage here. "Language Lessons" (3 minutes) has Steve Carrell saying silly things in other languages. "Spy Confidential" is a 6-minute GAG REEL. "The Making of Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control" (3 minutes) offers a sneak peek inside this side-story to the movie.

Warner Home Video has also brought Get Smart to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.80:1 (not 1.85:1, as is listed on the box) and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. But, while Blu-rays often show a natural brightness, the interior scenes here are noticeably darker than those seen on the DVD. However, exterior shots don't show this issue and the scenes in which Max and 99 traverse Russia look great, showing very nice depth. The image has a nice level of detail as well. Colors look great, most notably greens and reds. The Disc sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. So, this is essentially the same track as that found on the DVD. So, it's good, but not great, as it's not a lossless track. As noted above, stereo and surround effects during the action scenes are satisfactory.

The Get Smart Blu-ray Disc contains the same extras as the DVD, plus a few more. "The Old "I Hid it in the Movie Set' Trick" (9 minutes) is hosted by Masi Oka and Nate Torrence who show the references to the original TV show which are placed throughout the film. "The Vomit Reel" (5 minutes) shows extended takes (without special effects) of Max throwing up in the plane during the finale. The Blu-ray Disc also contains a seperate disc which houses a video game entitled "Kaos Control". This is similar to the extra disc which was housed with Speed Racer.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long