Get Too Clever by Half

get_smart_photoIf only America made cars like Hollywood makes movies. We'd have a 600 mpg Hummer that goes 300 miles per hour, runs on solar power, is guaranteed to get you laid, but is also the ultimate family vehicle using completely recycled, Birkenstock-like materials. In other words, a Frankenstein monster: all the icing, just the good parts.

That is how Get Smart feels. There are snappy lines. Zany scenes. The requisite gross-outs. Pratfalls. Thrills. Bond-worthy action sequences. Even a tear in the eye or two.Besides wondering if they really traveled to Russia to shoot parts of it (I guess they did), the only things that kept me going were the performances of Steve Carell and especially our nation's reigning Olivier, Alan Arkin. But more about him in a minute.

The movie, which is cleaning up at the box office, does not suck. Let me be clear on that. It's draining, because it's a very rich confection, but the people who made it spared no expense getting the right specialists to do their thing. They got the gizmo guys, the drab comedy guys, the snappy line guys, the broad humor guys. The seams between sections are bumpy. Bad welds. Every frame looks like it was focus-grouped. We laugh along because this is the line that got busloads (literally) of people in the San Fernando Valley to laugh along. We can't help it. It's like wanting a cold beer after eating salty peanuts.

It's so forcefully entertaining it kind of felt like work. I had to enjoy myself too much.

Which is where Carell and Arkin thankfully fit in. These guys fly. First Carell, America's lovely dweeb hero. In fact, to be fair, there are, in the overstuffed nature of this project, a couple of other acting turns of note. One, which is beyond classic, practically worth the price of admission, is two minutes of Bill Murray's face emerging from the knot of a fake tree and having a heart to heart with Carell. This might become a Youtube classic by itself.

But I had to sit through the whole palaver, so here's why Carell and Arkin carry the day.

Life.

They bring life to this moving blueprint. Somehow, Carell's patented nudnik in a bad suit personality is animated, he is everyman, a true heir to the original Maxwell Smart from the TV show, Don Adams. Arkin, well, his whine, his pauses, the "wrong" things he does that are so right (thank you Second City) are like gossamer wings on any scene. The dude is just frickin' funny. Serpentine! Serpentine!*

The rest is, as I said, is nonstop amusement. But it left me with a headache. - Ken Krimstein

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*Intentionally obscure reference to great film Arkin made with Peter Falk circa 1979.

Ken.jpg

Mr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.

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