Get Smart

Posted on June 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Action-style and comic violence, guns, lasers, bombs, characters in peril
Diversity Issues: Strong female character
Date Released to Theaters: June 20, 2008

getsmart-%282%29.jpgThe big-screen version of the classic 1960’s television show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry is more than an update. It shrewdly tweaks the original, making its hero, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) smarter and more capable than the bumbling and befuddled but always game and confident spy played by Don Adams and ramping up the action, and the result is a refreshingly entertaining summer popcorn movie.

The television show could get away with a wilder, more slapstick tone. At the time, spy stories like the early James Bond and television’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E were wildly popular and ripe for parody. But fact and fiction have made the audience less easily dazzled by spycraft and the non-stop silliness of the “Naked Gun” and “Scary Movie” series have made the audience too familiar with that category of comedy convention. Movies are longer and special effects are bigger, so there is the time and capacity for some action sequences.

But the movie will also satisfy fans of the show with its most memorable characters and catch phrases. Carell does not copy Adams’ preeningly clueless characterization but brings his own take — still clueless, but more endearingly sincere. His Maxwell Smart is actually very good at what he does. He analyzes data. He’s a desk guy. But he wants to be a field agent and has worked very hard to get there. The Chief (Alan Arkin, exasperated) does not want to see his best researcher turn into his far-from-best field agent. But when the agents list is compromised and he needs someone whose name is not known to anyone, Smart gets his chance.

He is assigned to work with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), an experienced agent who has just had an identity reassignment including a new face. And the two of them are sent to track down a rogue weapons dealer (Terence Stamp, with the indispensable attribute of a bad guy: an English accent), his eastern-European henchmen, one of whom could be a body double for the Yeti.

The action scenes are exceptionally well-paced, genuinely exciting and often very funny. Carell makes Smart an appealing character, a bit of a Walter Mitty who is ideally (and literally) suited for a desk job but who dreams of making the kind of contribution that can only be made in the field. Arkin steps easily into Ed Platt’s shoes (yes the shoe phone makes an appearance) as the Chief and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson brings the right combination of glamor and wit to the role of a top agent. And the casting for the Hymie character is so perfect I will not spoil it by saying any more.

It is about 20 minutes too long, with one too many set-ups, and the last one drags a bit. But fans of the television show will enjoy some riffs and references to its most popular gags and tag lines and those who are new to the characters will find a lot to enjoy.

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11 Replies to “Get Smart”

  1. Nell,
    From you review, I cannot see what specifically makes this movie unsuitable for Middle School kids. Could you please fill me in on the crudity/vulgarity of the humor or other specifics that you found tilted this to High Schoolers?
    I also want to add that I am a huge fan of your reviews. I am grateful for the effort you put into this and I’ve learned to trust your judgement. Please keep up the great work.
    — Dan

  2. Echoing Dan’s sentiments, it would be helpful to know specifically what vulgarity you were referencing. Flatulence humor is often written as vulgar but is age appropriate for middle school, in my humble opinion. The preview had a scene with Steve Carell staring at Hathaway’s rear and trying to play it off. If that’s what we are talking about, I’m not sure I would agree with the high school level.

  3. Not to send people to another website, and if this comment is deleted I understand, but for extremely detailed information (as in, counting the number of times certain swear words are used) try I use both that website and to make informed decisions about which movies my 12-yr-old and 14-yr-old can see. I am on the fence about “Get Smart” but based on this review and the one at, I am inclined to give it a pass until I can see it myself (probably on dvd) and then decide whether or not the kids get to see it at all. Sure wish they had gone for the PG rating instead of the PG-13 because my kids are dying to see this movie, as they love Steve Carell and the original Get Smart series as well.

  4. I would also like to know why “Strong Female Character” is a diversity issue? Are you really saying that females are not normally strong?

  5. Staci, I am happy to make readers aware of other resources. I prefer to Dove — it certainly has the most exhaustive item-by-item list of material of possible parental concern.
    In general, I will recommend a PG-13 movie for middle school and up if it is at about the average level of prime-time broadcast television. If I think it is more explicit than that, I will recommend it for high school or mature high schoolers. In this film, language is a bit harsher than you hear on television, there is, as noted in the review, a bare rear end, and there is a lot of intense action violence with characters being injured and killed. This one is on the border for me — I’d imagine it would be okay for an 8th grader but perhaps not a 6th grader. At that age, there is such a wide variation of comfort and maturity level that I tend to be a little extra protective.
    And Jane — thanks for the comment and I am sorry it was not clear. I note positive and negative diversity elements in a film, so when there is a particularly strong portrayal of a woman, minority, or disabled person I point it out. I am not saying that females are not strong. I am saying that movie females are often not strong and we should be thankful for those who are.

  6. Loved this film and agree with you about Smart getting smarter made for a MUCH better film. I was happy with the length and thoroughly enjoyed this film. I highly recommend to all. Twas all the more fun seeing it in Montreal!

  7. Thanks for the and (costs money though $24 per year). If you like, checkout, their reviews are pretty thorough also

  8. I think it’s really great! Both of the actors, I mean Anne Hathaway and Steve Garell were amazing! You’ll have a great fun while watching it 😉

  9. Get Smart is beautiful blend of action, adventure, comedy and romance….. Maxwell Smart,works as an analyst for a government agency control which is attacked by miscreants and the Chief assigns him to be a field agent……. It’s a suspensive movie……….Bt an interesting story.

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