Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by: Peter Segal (“The Longest Yard”)
Written by: Tom J. Astle (“Failure to Launch”) and Matt Ember (“Failure to Launch”)
Mel Brooks is an acquired taste, even more so in 2008.
Coming into the production of the film version of “Get Smart” as an advisor with fellow TV series writer Buck Henry, the duo attempt to inject some of the old show’s spirit into only the second feature of Tom Astle and Matt Ember’s screenwriting career.
While the dryness and silliness are there for the most part, some of the jokes sink fast on the big screen as people think back and wonder if “Blazing Saddles” is really as funny as every one says it is.
Brooks is a comedy auteur, and well he should be. No one was making films like “Young Frankenstein” and “Spaceballs” during their time and his enthusiasm for emulating peculiar characters in his own way was both creative and absurd. But now, the comedy feels worn out. It’s proved so in 2005’s “The Producers,” when the film wasn’t as well-received as the Broadway show or the 1968 film of the same name directed and written by Brooks.
In “Get Smart,” Brooks’ characters are revived for an adventure in the 21st century after the original show ended 38 years ago. Like other TV shows of that era that have also been updated for a new generation (“The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bewitched,” “I Spy”), “Get Smart” has a rough time translating over.
Although cast well (Steve Carell is the perfect to replace Don Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart), the script falters as it plays out more like an episode of “Mr. Bean” than a bumbling “James Bond.” It’s a nicely constructed cast with Anne Hathaway taking Barbara Feldon’s role as Agent 99 and an addition of Agent 23 played by the always suave Dwayne Johnson.
For something filled with so much deadpan humor, “Get Smart” gets more laughs than the reimagining of Steve Martin’s new “Pink Panther” shtick, but only gets as far as the dry wit takes it. In this case, slapstick and action sequences get most of the screen time and in turn ruins what the original show was all about.