PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language. 111 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
“Get Smart,” which began its life on TV as a classic sitcom that cleverly satirized Cold War espionage, has been transformed for the big screen into just another standard action picture.
Pity, too. Because Agent Maxwell Smart himself would have made a more entertaining movie, just by picking up a camera and bumbling his way through it.
You certainly can’t complain about the casting of Steve Carell in the lead role: What other actor has the buttoned-down looks and self-deprecating sense of humor to fill Don Adams’ shoe phone?
Carell’s Smart is a good guy — hardworking, earnest, desperate to prove he’s ready to be promoted from behind the desk as an analyst to the challenges of working as a field agent. While it’s true that doing a dead-on impression of Adams would have seemed campy and fallen flat, this characterization misses the point, too. The combination of self-seriousness and ineptitude is what made Maxwell Smart a comic icon. No one involved with this movie seems to get that.
In this screen version, Smart and the glamorous, capable Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, kicking far more butt than Barbara Feldon ever could have imagined) find themselves in a series of increasingly elaborate, explosive scenarios. It all plays out in big, loud, obvious fashion.
As for the plot, it feels like an afterthought, something cobbled together once all the pratfalls and sight gags were lined up. An attack on CONTROL exposes all the secret agents’ identities, leaving Max and 99 as the only ones left to go after the rival spy agency KAOS and undermine their nuclear plot.
In case all that failed to wow the crowds, and it probably will, “Get Smart” wedges in a totally needless romance between Max and Agent 99. The 20-year age difference between Carell and Hathaway is a bit of a distraction, but fundamentally, they just don’t have enough chemistry to suggest that falling for each other would be inevitable.
Besides, Agents 86 and 99? It just doesn’t add up.
THE LOVE GURU
PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references. 88 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
In “The Love Guru,” Mike Myers must come to love himself before he can love others. From the credits of this scattershot comedy sketch stretched and strained to movie length, Myers clearly loved himself to the point of narcissism going in.
Besides starring, Myers is a producer and co-writer.
Self-love does not seem to be an issue for Myers, unlike Pitka, the world’s second-best guru, who carries a chip on his shoulder from growing up in the shadow of top-seeded rival Deepak Chopra.
Most of the gags are half-hearted, many puzzling and unfunny lines delivered by Myers with his trademark sly stare into the camera, as though waiting for fans to guffaw. He may have a long wait.
Myers pushes the PG-13 rating with the movie’s bawdy language, coarse images and scatological humor involving such things as elephant dung and a fight with urine-soaked mops.
Obviously having fun playing Pitka, Myers’ earnestness makes some lines seem funnier than they are. But his zeal cannot save most of the empty jokes from landing with a deadly thud.
Self-referential — or self-reverential — moments also include a snippet where a car radio briefly tunes in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Myers undergoing a fleeting flashback to “Wayne’s World,” when he and Dana Carvey led a group sing-along to the song.
Myers wants us all to love him, wants us all to be in on his jokes. But love and laughs are earned, not given just because you mug for the camera behind a wild wig and beard.