The world of the spy/police spoof story has never recovered from the death of Peter Sellers back in July 1980. Sellers' interpretation of the bungling Inspector Jacques Clouseau has never been bettered or even equalled in the world of cinema. Steve Martin had a go a few years back but failed miserably. You see, the thing with The Pink Panther movies of old is the longevity. The comedy genre's biggest downfall is that once a scene has been laughed at, it's very seldom funny again. Not so with Sellers and Clouseau - indeed, every time the comic genius slides down the parallel bars, swings himself over and falls down the stairs, I break a rib laughing - I know what's coming, but I just can't help it. The only real exception to this I suppose is Leslie Nielsen with the Naked Gun series...
You can put it down to Sellers and his perfect comedy timing - very few actors have had the gift since Sellers' sad demise through ill health and good living - and Steve Martin certainly doesn't buck that trend...
Steve Carrell on the other hand is a comedy godfather in the same mould as Peter Sellers. Cutting his teeth on the American TV version of The Office, his has moved quietly an relatively un-noticed onto the silver screen with a string of played down roles that suit his persona to a tee.
In Get Smart, Carrell plays Agent Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86, an agent for CONTROL, who together with the seemingly smarter (and much easier on the eye Agent 99 played by Anne Hathaway), battle the forces of KAOS.
This time they have to do battle against Siegfried (Terence Stamp) who has stolen some nuclear warheads and is going to detonate one of them at a presidential concert at The Walt Disney Theatre in Los Angeles. Together with Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) and The Chief (Alan Arkin), they must find the bomb and defeat the evil Siegfried before he levels the city...simple huh?
And that is where this film wins above others of it's genre - it's simplicity.
based on a single season TV show from 1965 developed by Mel Brooks, the film does the sensible thing and sticks by the shows fundamentals - even to the point of making the "baddies" Russian and sending the 2 heroes undercover to Red Square in the Soviet Union (as Agent 86 so lovingly puts it). The good thing is it leaves all the crudeness that the Austin Powers movies reverted too behind and plays on the comedy prowess of it's leading man - and the chemistry between him and his leading lady.
The back story that they invent on the plane to Moscow had me in stitches and must have taken an age to film - like sellers, Carrell is renowned for his cracking up on set. That is just one of many stand out scenes in the film that involves the two of them together. There seems to be a couple of scenes "borrowed" from some spy films made in recent times also - namely the "get through the lasers" scene from Entrapment and the tango scene from True Lies. Both of those scenes are played in this movie with tongue in cheek and Carrell pokes fun at his character without insulting the actors or characters in the films from which these scenes were borrowed...
And it's because of Steve Carrell that Get Smart works so well. He is so right on the money with his physical comedy moves that you can't but laugh at him. It's a gift that very few people have and in my opinion, Carrell could probably be crowned the comedy find of the decade. However, Anne Hathaway plays the sidekick perfectly. She knows that she is there to bear the brunt of the jokes which she does brilliantly. Dwayne Johnson makes his next move to be the new Arnie by having another go at comedy - he is a lot better at it than the Oak ever was - but I feel that for every film that he appears in that isn't of the action genre is a wasted opportunity. Surely a man from his background and with his physique should jump at every opportunity to shoot things and blow people up. His acting ability is still in question in my eyes - but there's a twist in the film (that you'll see coming - but I'll still not spoil it) that enables to him to show that the lessons are paying off - but at the same time, proves my point about sticking to action films...
All in all then, I can recommend Get Smart to lovers of the comedy spoof genre. It has re-watch appeal also due to Carrells superb comedic abilities...which leaves me with one question.
Why is Steve Martin returning as Clouseau next year in The Pink Panther 2 when Steve Carrell was born to play the part...?
Our Review Ethos