Dir: Peter Segal . US. 2008. 110 mins.

Offering a little bit of everything but not quite enough of any one thing, Get Smart is a likable jumble of genres that could have greatly benefited from being less ambitious. Despite a strong central performance from Steve Carell, this adaptation of the hyper-silly '60s television sitcom crams physical comedy, political satire, big-budget action, romantic drama and thriller elements into a big cinematic bundle while trying to please both fans of the original and younger audiences who probably aren't even aware that this film is based on a TV show. It's not consistently funny, but it is certainly busy.

Warner Bros. releases Get Smart into an extremely crowded US marketplace June 20 opposite box office titan Mike Myers with The Love Guru. Considering older filmgoers' familiarity with the original Get Smart television series, an argument could be made that this will appeal to a larger base than the younger-skewing Love Guru. With Carell, Anne Hathaway and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson courting a younger demographic and both sexes, Warner Bros. might have a hit on its hands that appeals to just about everyone.

Overseas, Get Smart will bow in most territories by the end of August. Carell has enjoyed his greatest success internationally with the animated family films Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who! and Over The Hedge. Even if foreign audiences are less tempted to sample Get Smart than their American counterparts, ancillaries seem assured considering the combined star power involved and the film's small-screen origins.

Brilliant intelligence analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) toils away for the spy organization CONTROL, longing to become a field agent one day. He gets his chance after CONTROL's offices are attacked and the organisation's top agents are compromised. Teamed up with the gorgeous Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), Smart must defeat their arch nemesis KAOS, a criminal consortium planning to move nuclear weapons onto American soil.

Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the original Get Smart series ran from 1965 to 1970 and starred the deadpan Don Adams as the blundering Maxwell Smart, with most of the humour based around incredibly goofy puns and good-natured slapstick. Get Smart retains the show's silly spirit, but as directed by Peter Segal, the film feels pulled in several stylistic directions, its desperation to secure every audience demographic getting in the way of its rhythm.

One of the keys to the television show's charm was that it didn't take itself too seriously. And while the film is largely a comedy, its interest in elaborate action set pieces, overly complicated plotting and moments of pathos for Agent 99's character suggest that the filmmakers forgot the very quality that made the show attractive.

The one element which does work is Carell's performance as Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. Because Adams' persona was so synonymous with the character's dim-witted incompetence, Carell isn't just playing a role but embodying another actor's essence, and he succeeds without resorting to impressions. After his awkward turn in last year's Evan Almighty, Carell seems more relaxed this time around carrying a potential summer blockbuster on his shoulders, and his confident low-key style and superb bits of physical comedy give the film its one completely satisfying component.

As his romantic foil Agent 99, Anne Hathaway looks even more glamorous than she did in the fashion-mad The Devil Wears Prada. Hathaway is one of the rare 20-something actresses working today who has both enormous sex appeal and a gift for playing warm-hearted, intelligent characters. It's unfortunate, then, that so much of her repartee with Carell - written by the team of Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, who were also responsible for the grating Failure To Launch - boils down to strained verbal sparring in the name of flirting.

Production companies

Village Roadshow Pictures

Mosaic Media Group

Mad Chance

Callahan Filmworks

Domestic distribution

Warner Bros. Pictures

International distribution

Warner Bros Pictures International

Village Roadshow Pictures


Andrew Lazar

Charles Roven

Alex Gartner

Michael Ewing


Tom J. Astle

Matt Ember

(based on characters created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry)

Director of photography

Dean Semler

Production designer

Wynn Thomas


Richard Pearson


Trevor Rabin

Main cast:

Steve Carell

Anne Hathaway

Dwayne Johnson

Alan Arkin

Terence Stamp

James Caan

Ken Davitian