Get Smart is like watching your favorite rock band play an awesome concert. Awesome, that is, when they aren’t championing causes between every song. Your experience isn’t ruined but you think maybe you paid too much to hear musicians talk. Get Smart is a hilarious spy parody when it isn’t shooting comic blanks at a Lame Duck.
Smart (Steve Carell) is a star analyst for CONTROL, a U.S. intelligence agency created during the Cold War to fight KAOS. He longs to be James Bond. In his 40s, he’s well past the average age of a field agent. He is depressed that it may never happen until his agency is attacked by its nemesis. The chief of CONTROL (Alan Arkin) explains how all of its field agents have had their identities revealed. It’s up to Smart as Agent 86 to infiltrate KAOS, which has been stockpiling nuclear weapons. A total klutz, he gets help from Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), a no-nonsense agent unhappy being saddled with a walking liability.
Get Smart feels mostly like the '60s television show it’s based on. Before the Austin Powers movies, the original Get Smart spoofed James Bond. The remake also pokes fun at silly gadgets, inept bad guys, and hideouts in weird locations. For instance after the sneak attack, CONTROL moves to its backup headquarters. It’s hidden in the middle of a fountain in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Seven-foot-two WWE wrestler The Great Kali plays a Jaws-like henchman who seems impossible to kill.
The movie is hilarious every time Carell is onscreen. Purists will claim that Carell’s Smart isn’t a complete doofus. On the show, Smart beat the bad guys through sheer dumb luck. But Carell nails him enough whether Smart’s harpooning himself with a crossbow or knocking himself out with sleeping gas. Carell’s deadpan acting and sweetness makes his character likable.