funny: Hathaway as Agent 99 in Get Smart.
You Believe It’s Funny?
by Peter Segal
For those of us of certain age, watching Get Smart
on TV was like having a snow emergency on a chem test day.
From its opening scenes, in which Agent 86, Maxwell Smart
(Don Adams), strode the seemingly endless corridor of secret
passageways to get to a phone booth which shuttled him to
the offices of CONTROL (think CIA minus the torture), you
couldn’t help but get sucked in to a half-hour of inspired
lunacy. Get Smart was the brainchild of Mel Brooks
and Buck Henry, and it’s probably because these two writers
had such opposing senses of humor and comedy that the show
worked so well. Brooks’ penchant for the naughty, even vulgar,
was balanced by Henry’s dry wit, so, for instance, every time
the luscious and capable Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) intoned
something that could be taken as, well, erotic, Adams’ hopelessly
unaware 86 would miss the point. Because he was so clueless
about his own idiocy, let alone people’s opinions of him,
Smart always bested those who were far more intelligent and
cunning. CONTROL may have been working against the Cold War
aims of the sinister KAOS, but lunacy prevailed.
The new big-screen version of Get Smart wisely pays
homage to the series without being chained to it. While there
are amusing references to what series fans (but no one else)
would remember, such as the cone of silence, Hymie the Robot
and the literally stuck-in-a-tree Agent 13 (Bill Murray in
cameo), there are big changes: namely, Smart (Steve Carell)
is no longer the snippy agent last to get the joke but an
overly sympathetic former fatty who desperately wants to prove
that he can make it as a field agent. I don’t mind that Carell
chose to go this direction. Indeed, I think it’s better that
he diverted from simply mining Don Adams’ various tics, but
I think that the filmmakers missed out on some valuable material
by going the sad-sack route. Of course he’s going to win the
day, the girl, the promotion—it’s the triumph of the everyman,
rather than, well, “Controlled” chaos.
Assuming the role of 99 is Anne Hathaway, looking more chic
than anyone has in films since Audrey Hepburn did Paris in
Charade (note: Hathaway wears Chanel; Hepburn wore
Givenchy). She’s the agent who knows how to do everything
better than anybody else, and to her chagrin, when Max is
finally sprung into field work following a KAOS attack that
exposes all the “old” field agents, he is assigned to be her
partner. There follows routine bickering and bantering scenes,
some better than others, but the spark is dampened by the
fact that we already know, from an early scene, that Max has
the hots for 99. Gone then is the requisite slow simmer that
makes these kinds of relationships so delicious to watch.
That said, there is a tremendous scene of one-upsmanship when
the duo infiltrate a Russian party, and 99, in a va-va-voom
wig and sequined gown, shimmies away with a Russian baddie,
and Smart, proving he’s no slouch in the intelligence-gathering
area, trips the light fantastic with a hefty but graceful
guest. What could have been a fat joke is instead a moment
of great comic timing, with the latter duo proving remarkably
light on the tootsies and winning the begrudging respect and
admiration of all present, both on and off the screen.
The plot is, thankfully, simple: Bad guy Siegfried (Terence
Stamp) has got hold of yellow-cake uranium and will bomb America
unless our government forks over scads of money. No transporters
or intergalactic gizmos, just good old-fashioned good- versus-bad
plotting. In the midst of two or three incredibly loud explosions
and many more high-speed chases, screenwriters Tom J. Astle
and Matt Ember throw in some very funny business involving
CONTROL hottie Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) having to do desk
duty, the Chief’s (Alan Ar kin) Watergate-spawned feud with
one famously controlling vice president (Geoff Pierson), and
a certain President (James Caan) more interested in slapstick
buffoonery than in Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. There are
great lines delivered with panache and style, by a cast whose
timing is impeccable. Old-timers will get a kick out of the
inspired use of the shoe phone and the snazzy red car, but
there’s plenty for newbies to enjoy. All in all, and despite
its few glitches, Get Smart is a smart, funny winner.
by Marco Schnabel
The question isn’t really why the National Hockey League,
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto Maple Leafs, Morgan
Freeman, Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer, Oprah, Stephen Colbert,
Mariska Hargitay, Deepak Chopra and other veritable institutions
and wealthy celebrities whored themselves out for, respectively,
embarrassing product placements and mirthless cameos in a
movie bursting with (limp) dick jokes, scatological hijinx
and simulated elephant sex. That’s easy. Love Guru
co-producer, co-writer and star Mike Myers’ Austin Powers
trilogy made a billion dollars at worldwide box offices (give
or take a few million). The question is, why did Myers
make The Love Guru?
The answer is disturbing. Myers, who really seems to believe
in the kind of new-agey, East-meets-West, quick-fix spirituality
offered by the wealthy, successful Chopras of the world, has
made a comedy about feelings. And poop.
The results are so bad, at times I found myself laughing because
some of the jokes are so awful. Only at times, though, because
The Love Guru’s humor is largely cringe-inducing.
The plot: The star player of hockey’s Maple Leafs (Romany
Malco, as sharp and funny as he was in The 40 Year-Old
Virgin) is a failure on ice, because his girlfriend (Meagan
Good, underused as usual) left him for L.A. Kings goalie Jacques
“Le Coq” Grande (Justin Timberlake, delighted again to send
up his sexy-pop-star image). The Leafs owner (ever-hapless
Jessica Alba) hires her favorite celebrity guru (Myers, as
an American raised in India) to save the relationship so that
the Leafs will finally win the Stanley Cup.
That is a lot of plot for an 89-minute-long fart comedy.
Time for some credit where credit is due: The NHL did not
allow the actual cup to appear in the movie. Myers would probably
have had an elephant piss in it.
The guru shtick isn’t funny. It’s bizarre. Myers can’t resist
tugging his beard and winking at every (inappropriate) opportunity,
as if we’re in on the (nonexistent) joke.
Genuinely puzzled, I skimmed through the press materials to
see if the star had anything to say for himself. I found this
quote from Myers, regarding the film’s most horrifying cameo:
“Of course Ben Kingsley is one of our finest actors and with
Tugginmypuddha, you have a cross-eyed guru who hands out chastity
belts, so it’s a very broad conceit.”
Tugginmypuddah. Someone’s tuggin’ someone’s puddah, all right.
I just wish he’d stop.