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Carrell right choice for playing Maxwell Smart in 'Smart' remake

Get Smart

NNN1/2 out of 5

I can't say that I'm a fan of Hollywood's big screen interpretation of classic television shows. But then again, I can't say I'm totally against it.

For example, The Brady Bunch was a hilarious send-up of the original corny show. On the other hand, The Flintstones was a pale imitation amounting to not much more than a 22-minute episode stretched into a two hour movie with better animation.

I used to watch the original Get Smart! in reruns. I'll admit that it was hard for me to accept anyone else playing Maxwell Smart as well as he did. Fortunately, when it comes to Steve Carell in the new Get Smart film, they made the right choice.

It's not that Carell gives us a spot-on impression of Don Adams. In fact, his version of Maxwell Smart is a bit closer to Michael Scott from The Office than what we're used to seeing for the bumbling secret agent. However, this works out for the best.

Carell makes the character of Maxwell Smart his own, for better or for worse. He doesn't necessarily try to live up to what Don Adams did in the legendary 60s sit com.

Rather, he gives us a new interpretation of Agent 86. Since Hollywood isn't going to resurrect Adams from the dead, I don't see any other way of achieving a movie like this.

Get Smart pays homage to the 60s television show without necessarily making itself consistent with the storyline. It features CONTROL, a spy organization in the U.S. government, as a dinosaur. It still operates to fight KAOS, a spoof of James Bond's nemesis SPECTRE, but it does so in secrecy.

Gone is the Cold War, but there are still plenty of nuclear devices out there to stir up trouble. Siegfried (Terrence Stamp), the leader of KAOS, is planning some nuclear shenanigans, and he's got a mole in CONTROL. Newly-minted agent Maxwell Smart is the only one left to stop them, along with a sexy Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).

Get Smart is a bit of a slow starter. The first half isn't unbearable to watch by any means, but it is a much stronger movie on the back end.

Things start looking up when Carell's slapstick is tempered with his banter with Hathaway. They have great chemistry and make the middle of the film work.

Also turning in stellar performances is Dwayne Johnson as Agent 23, the most suave and capable secret agent in CONTROL, and Alan Arkin as the impulsive Chief. Along with Terry Crews, David Koechner and James Caan as the President, the cast is what makes this movie work.

Get Smart purists will likely be offended at the tinkering with the storyline. But this is to be expected for anyone who can't let the original go. In terms of reaching a 21st century audience, Get Smart was about as good as it could be.

Meet the Spartans: Unrated DVD

N out of 5

I may not be Catholic, but that doesn't mean that I'm not into flagellation. Not only did I subject myself to the cinematic terrorism that was Meet the Spartans when it came to theaters in January. I plowed through the unrated DVD to see if there was anything worth salvaging.

But like a 15-year-old Yugo in a junkyard, there's nothing there useful to anyone.

What cheeses me off so much about movies like Meet the Spartans is that they give spoofs a bad name. I grew up with the ZAZ brothers, who were responsible for The Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, Top Secret and the Naked Gun series.

Those movies are hilarious. And let's not forget the seminal Mel Brooks films of the 70s and 80s that set the stage for such fare.

But a few years ago, two would-be comedy writers got a gig writing for the Scary Movie series (not a bad set of films in themselves), and they spun off their own special line of spoof films.

The result were garbage movies like Date Movie, Epic Movie and now Meet the Spartans.

It's not unheard of to have a DVD play better at home than it did in its theatrical run. Unfortunately, Meet the Spartans is as painful and torturous as it was in the theaters. Only it's worse.

This crap has just invaded your home. Hide the women and children because these movies will make you stupider just by watching them.

One of the benefits of unrated DVDs is that you get more content in the home video release. Even if a film is terrible like Meet the Spartans, you can hold up hope that the film might give some more raunchy moments, some well-placed nudity or at least some more content than you saw in the theaters.

If you're expecting any of this from this unrated DVD, you'll be sorry. I didn't notice a frame of difference between this and the theatrical cut. They didn't even unbleep the f-bombs used in the various sketches. Perhaps the special features are unrated and give us something appeal.

Oh, you would only hope. Unfortunately, the special features are just as unfunny and painful as the movie itself.

Meet the Spartans tries to be irreverent and relevant to pop culture by simply referencing films. Its general story is a rip-off of 300, replete with homoerotic jokes and bad urban references.

The biggest problem with this film is that it lingers on jokes that might be funny if they flew by. But a five-minute Stomp the Yard face-off with the Spartans and the Persians becomes unfunny very fast.

If that wasn't enough urban references, the scene comes back with the two sides flinging "your mamma" insults at each other.

The filmmakers of Meet the Spartans figure their audience is so stupid that they have to point out who Ugly Betty, Ryan Seacrest, Ghost Rider and "that fat guy from Borat" are.

And in case you didn't realize why Carmen Electra is suddenly dressed in a black Spider-Man outfit, the narrator explains that she's "much like Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3."

With silly movies like this, sometimes there's redemption in the special features. Unfortunately, these elements will make you hate yourself just as much as the rest of the film.

The commentary includes the directors and the cast who endlessly gush over each other's brilliance and pump Nicole Parker (who is woefully unfunny except for a pretty spot-on Ellen impression) to be the next uber-commedienne.

Additional special features include a ridiculous pop culture trivia game that the same level of difficulty as a People magazine crossword puzzle (and includes all the shots of people falling into the Pit of Death, if you didn't get enough of that in the film), a lame gag reel, a tour of the set with the Dane Cook impersonator, a spotlight on the homoerotic training sessions and a feature that allows you to jump to the music scenes.

Be a smarter person. Avoid this movie at all costs.

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.