Get Smart

As old Broadway shows are revived, new Broadway shows get spun from old movies so that new movies may be fashioned from ancient TV series. It’s an iron law of the culture industry that turns out to be a pleasant surprise in the case of Get Smart, the late-’60s sitcom retooled as a vehicle for Steve Carell. The most successful of the half-dozen spy shows that materialized in 1965, the original Get Smart was distinguished less by its absurdist attitude than by its catch phrases and casting. Stand-up comedian Don Adams drew on his nightclub William Powell impersonation to play Maxwell Smart, the dense, inept, officious Agent 86. No less deadpan or baroquely bumbling than the Adams original, Carell’s Smart is actually smarter. He’s also more lovably neurotic—a know-it-all intelligence analyst obsessed with his weight who dreams of becoming a real spy. As directed by Peter Segal, Get Smart redux is less a parody of a genre that had already passed into self-parody many moons before the TV show was in reruns, and more an all-purpose (and often quite funny) goofball action comedy in which ridiculous banter alternates with slapstick car chases and mid-air stunts. And though it acknowledges the post-9/11 world, Get Smart has no political subtext beyond a mild but persistent hostility toward the Bush administration.
June 20-July 10, 2008

 
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