Get Smart (2008)

The original show is, let's face it, no model of consistency. It was always uneven, with many strained gags and a truly lousy laugh track. But it also harvested many genuine laughs - as opposed to this film, which more or less manages to keep a goofy smile on the face, even elicit the odd titter, but I can't remember any proper laughter. Director Peter Segal never has had nor ever will have style, and that's one thing this film badly lacks. His staging is leaden and his attempts to make visual satire out of the Michael Bay era blockbuster flourish are infinitely less competent than that found in Hot Fuzz. Despite its flaws, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Et Cetera is a master class on how to make comedy-action scenes; Get Smart flounders semi-competently. One aspect that the film does get right, despite the odd (and clearly forgetful) carping of many critics, is Max's occasional displays of lucid competence and killer instinct, which did show itself in spurts during the original series. The film is loaded with the compulsory "Oh my bum hurts!" style of gag, and the sticky slime of our post-Austin Powers comedic era coats the material, which is a pity especially because the direct references to the original show are almost always the funniest in the film. Star Steve Carrell is often stranded at the helpless mercy of some incredibly weak lines. And yet the film holds together, especially after a wobbly first half-hour, mostly thanks to the excellence of Carrell and Anne Hathaway's 99. Both stars' charm buoys the paper-thin script, and Alan Arkin, despite having a terribly underwritten role, delights.

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