This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The closing credits of “Get Smart” mention Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, creators of the original TV series, as “consultants.” Their advice must have been: “If it works, don’t fix it.” There have been countless comic spoofs of the genre founded by James Bond, but “Get Smart” (both on TV and now in a movie) is one of the best. It’s funny, exciting, preposterous, great to look at, and made with the same level of technical expertise we’d expect from a new Bond movie itself. And all of that is very nice, but nicer still is the perfect pitch of the casting.
Steve Carell makes an infectious Maxwell Smart, the bumbling but ambitious and unreasonably self-confident agent for CONTROL, a secret U.S. agency in rivalry with the CIA. His job is to decipher overheard conversations involving agents of KAOS, its Russian counterpart. At this he is excellent: What does it mean that KAOS agents discuss muffins? That they have a high level of anxiety, of course, because muffins are a comfort food. Brilliant, but he misses the significance of the bakery they’re also discussing — a cookery for high-level uranium.
Smart is amazingly promoted to a field agent by the Chief (Alan Arkin, calm and cool) and teamed with the beautiful Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway, who never tries too hard but dominates the screen effortlessly). They go to Russia, joining with Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson, once known as The Rock). Their archenemy is waiting for them; he’s Siegfried (Terence Stamp), a cool, clipped villain.
And that’s about it, except for a series of special-effects sequences and stunt work that would truly give envy to a James Bond producer. “Get Smart” is an A-level production, not a cheapo ripoff, and some of the chase sequences are among the most elaborate you can imagine — particularly a climactic number involving planes, trains and automobiles. Maxwell Smart of course proves indestructible, often because of the intervention of Agent 99; he spends much of the center portion of the film in free-fall without a parachute, and then later is towed behind an airplane.