Film Friday: ‘Get Smart’, ‘The Love Guru’

by W. Andrew Powell

Get Smart

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in Get Smart

Grab your shoe phone and call up your friends at Control, this weekend super agent Maxwell Smart arrives in theatres for a remake of the 1960s spy comedy Get Smart, and KAOS is out to get him. Also in theatres is Mike Myers‘ latest slapstick comedy, The Love Guru; the music documentary Global Metal, and Guy Maddin‘s My Winnipeg.

Get Smart
You know the old adage; you can’t judge a book by its cover. In the case of most of the films that come out of Hollywood, that saying would of course be wrong. Take one look at just the poster for What Happens in Vegas, and you know from that big, dumb expression on Ashton Kutcher’s face that this is what bad movies are all about.

When I first heard about a Get Smart movie, despite realizing how bad it could be, I was definitely hopeful. Steve Carell was a perfect choice for the part, and while Anne Hathaway is not quite the ideal Agent 99, she’s talented enough to be a great co-star for Carell’s zaniness. What I expected though, just judging from the TV show, was a reboot of the story that would make this a silly, odd little caper film.

Against all the odds, including a director and writers with very little quality material on their resumes, Get Smart is not only funny – it’s a pretty impressive action movie.

Carell’s goofy, but talented Maxwell Smart is trying his best to become a field agent for the ultra-secret spy agency known as Control, but the Chief, played by Alan Arkin, doesn’t want to lose Smart’s research skills around the office. When the crime organization known as KAOS discovers the identity of every agent in the field however, the only answer is to send in two unknowns, which means Smart gets a promotion, and finds himself teamed up with the ice cold Agent 99. Together, they’ll have to uncover KAOS’ evil plan, and foil it before it’s too late.

Following all of the elements of the TV show, Smart is goofy, and does nothing but flirt with 99, but he’s no slouch. Smart can fight with the best of them, and Carell has more than a couple of great action sequences. Hathaway on the other hand mostly plays the straight-woman to Carell’s gags and stunts, but she is great in this role, packs a mean punch, and is of course a total treat throughout the film.

With co-stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Terence Stamp, Arkin, David Koechner, Masi Oka and Nate Torrence all adding their charms to this action-comedy, the result is nothing short of a great ensemble cast. Special appearances by James Caan as the President, Bill Murray as Agent 13, and best of all, Patrick Warburton as the one and only Hymie, are nothing short of brilliant, even if they are only around briefly.

It was hard to imagine anyone but Don Adams as Agent 86, but I will give Carell lots of credit for reimagining the character, without taking away Max’s heart and soul. As a stand-alone story Get Smart does everything I could have expected and more, which I hope means more adventures to come.

The Love Guru
After years of playing a big, green, animated ogre, Mike Myers returns to the big screen with his first live-action film in six years, and a storyline that suggests a dare and alcohol were somehow involved along the way.

Myers plays Maurice Pitka, a spiritual guru who is trying to help a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs get back together with his ex-wife. At the same time, Maurice is falling in love with Jane, played by Jessica Alba.

Myers, being the devout Torontonian that he is, gives his home town a lot of love in the film, but it doesn’t look like much else paid off. The last half-decent live-action comedy Myers was involved with was Austin Powers in Goldmember, and even that movie was half baked. Since then the Shrek films have done exceedingly well, but with the critical reaction for this film, it begs the question if he has somehow lost his touch with zany comedies.

“We’re talking 15 or 20 minutes of decent material,” said Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. “The movie runs a little longer than that.”

Worse still, Rafer Guzman of Newsday said it “scrapes bottom for laughs, resorting to pop-culture jokes (Lindsay, Britney), weak musical numbers (Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ on sitar) and, most abysmally, the sight of two elephants doing it.”

Also arriving this week in select theatres…

Global Metal
The guys behind the successful documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey are back, and this time Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn are headed to the Middle East, Asia and South America in search of more metal music fans. What might surprise some people is that there is definitely a whole subculture for metalheads, even in these sometimes troubled parts of the world, and the fans are apparently taking what they want from the music and using it to speak up.

My Winnipeg
From director Guy Maddin, who brought us The Saddest Music in the World, comes My Winnipeg, the director’s love letter to his boyhood home town. As a kind of mock documentary, the film chronicles aspects of Maddin’s real life childhood with fantasy, and stories of Winnipeg that are strange and riveting. The film has received great reviews, but is definitely far out, and just a little weird.

Film Friday is a weekly syndicated column produced by The GATE for print and online and examining the latest new arrivals coming to cinemas, with reviews, or a look at the critical consensus on each movie.

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