2008 Running time: 109 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3

Synopsis

When ruthless crime syndicate KAOS makes a nuclear threat, top-secret US agency CONTROL is forced to give analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) his first field mission. Unfortunately, 'Agent 86' makes Inspector Clouseau look like James Bond. So it's a good job foxy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) and legendary Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) know what they're doing. Slapstick, spoofery and seat-edge chases make for a hectic spy lark, based on the long-running 60s TV comedy.

Director

  • Peter Segal

Cast

  • Steve Carell

  • Anne Hathaway

  • Dwayne Johnson

  • Terence Stamp

  • Alan Arkin

  • Ken Davitian

Review

Few will recall the TV show from whence this daft caper came, and even fewer would be able to tell you that it was created by two comedy legends - Mel Brooks and Buck Henry (writer of The Graduate and What's Up, Doc?).

Those who do (congratulations, now pass the Werther's Originals) would also realise that, like many a Brooks' spoof (​High Anxiety​Spaceballs​Dracula: Dead And Loving It), it's about 20 years too late to be entirely effective.

The Cold War is over, Austin Powers has (mercifully) had his day, and everyone's taking James Bond seriously again.

But, credited as 'consultants', Brooks and Henry must have thought it was worth dusting off Don Adams' Smart suit and giving it to Steve Carell - possibly feeling he needed a lift after the comedic deaths of ​Evan Almighty and ​Dan In Real Life.

With directorial duties handed to Adam Sandler's regular collaborator Peter Segal, who oversaw the third Naked Gun movie, Maxwell Smart is essentially presented as the new Frank Drebin.

As the most enthusiastic data-cruncher at hush-hush US intelligence outfit CONTROL, Smart puts the 'anal' in analyst. Sadly, he's a victim of his own success, restricted to shuffling papers even after passing the agents' exam.

But when global villains KAOS wipe out half the spies and get their no-good mitts on a stash of weapons-grade uranium, CONTROL chief Alan Arkin has no choice but to send Smart into the field as 'Agent 86'.

Partnered with Hathaway's frosty but delicious '99', and backed up at HQ by a couple of techno-geeks and superstar Agent 23 (Johnson), Smart sets out to eliminate the nuclear threat of KAOS agent Siegfried (Stamp) and his sidekick Shtarker (Davitian, best known as ​Borat's hairy producer).

Lifting most of its ideas from Roger Moore-era Bond (including a sky-diving scrap and the Middle-Eastern twin of unkillable nemesis Jaws), this is less an update of the TV series than The Spy Who Loved Me with pratfalls and poo jokes.

The always likeable Carell is underserved by a script which draws out its derivative plot with a laboured romance between Smart and 99 and takes a quantity-over-quality approach to one-liners.

Inevitably, many of the gags land more painfully than Smart does. Bill Murray also makes the most pointless cameo of the decade and James Caan has little more to do as the Bush-like President (satire isn't a strong point either).

At least Hathaway gets to show her form, most notably while repeating Catherine Zeta-Jones' gymnastic laser-dodging routine from the otherwise avoidable ​Entrapment.

But it's Arkin who fares best in a surprisingly meaty role, bagging some of the best lines and clearly enjoying being part of the frenetic air-road-rail climax.

Yet while it's as novel as a second-hand ejector seat and hits the groin more often than the funnybone, Get Smart still registers enough clicks on the giggle counter to make its mission passable.

Elliott Noble