DVD Tuesday: ‘Get Smart’ & ‘Kung Fu Panda’

by W. Andrew Powell

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in Get Smart

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in Get Smart

This week on DVD, catch Steve Carell as Agent 86 as he fights the evil forces of KAOS in the spy-comedy Get Smart, while Jack Black gets animated in the high-flying Kung Fu Panda. Plus, the latest Futurama movie has Bender roleplaying, Mystery Science Theater 3000 celebrates its 20th anniversary, pick up volume one of The Jeff Healey Band Legacy, and the first season of television’s Spin City.

Get Smart
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 of Maxwell Smart, 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 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. However, when the crime organization known as KAOS discovers the identity of every agent in the field, 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, played by Hathaway. 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 Agent 86, without taking away the heart and soul of the character. As a stand-alone story Get Smart does everything I could have expected and more, which I hope means more adventures to come.

Kung Fu Panda
Whether you call it perfect casting, or lack of imagination, animation was hardly necessary for Jack Black to play the role of an oversized, underachieving panda. In Dreamworks’ latest animated adventure though, Black does seem all too right as Po, an unlikely hero named as the “Chosen One” to fight against the threat of the snow leopard, Tai Lung.

Po is just an ordinary, clumsy waiter at a noodle restaurant, dreaming of greatness, when he is picked to join the greatest of the kung fu masters: Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey, all trained by Master Shifu. If only Po wasn’t so lazy, his training might turn out a little better, but with Tai Lung ready to make trouble, he will have to figure out his destiny quickly, or trouble will come knocking at the door.

With voice work by Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu and David Cross, the all-star cast will keep most adults entertained, while the cute and cuddly animals entertain the kids.

On the surface, the film looks like a lot of other animated films, but critics are more than impressed with Kung Fu Panda for having heart and loads of energy. “Kung Fu Panda is yet another celebrity-voiced animal adventure,” Tasha Robinson of the Onion AV Club said, “but it stands out from the crowd of similar films with its lightning wit and whirlwind brio.”

Futurama: Bender’s Game
In the latest direct-to-DVD Futurama movie, the universe is suffering from a shortage of starship fuel, and it looks like Mom, the owner of MomCorp, is behind it all. At the same time Bender wants to play Dungeons & Dragons, but because he’s a robot with no imagination, he ends up forcing himself to believe he actually is a medieval knight.

Following the two previous releases, Bender’s Game is another hilarious adventure from the Futurama crew, with lots of extras included on the DVD. While I still miss the episodes on television, the movies have been surprisingly funny, taking the antics of the show and developing them very well for a full movie-length feature.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition
In my university days I distinctly remember a number of my friends spending hours watching Mystery Science Theater, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t even drinking. Today, the jokes seem a little less clever, and a lot more juvenile, but there is still something oddly captivating about watching a guy and two robots mock some of the worst B-movies ever made.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary with a collection of some of their best material, the new collectors tin wraps up four films alongside creator interviews, a taped session from the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, and a figurine of the Crow character. For around fifty bucks, it’s a decent package, but probably could have used a few more extras in my opinion.

The Jeff Healey Band, Legacy: Volume One
While this is more of a music collection than a DVD, I thought it was still a notable package that a lot of people may be anxiously awaiting. The set features a DVD of live performances of Jeff Healey on stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, plus two CDs of singles, and live, unreleased tracks.

Television on DVD…

Spin City: The Complete First Season
Michael J. Fox stars in Spin City as New York City’s deputy mayor, Mike, a genius political spin doctor who has to constantly keep mayor Randall Winston, played by Barry Bostwick, from making a complete fool of himself and his staff. Away from work though, Mike has a hard time dealing with the women in his life, not to mention his bizarre crew of co-workers.

The first season of the series features a few minor, but interest extras. The more interesting being interviews with the cast of the show, plus commentaries by the cast and creators.

Also out this week
The first season of Reaper; plus complete collections of Get Smart, Long Way Down, Fraggle Rock, and the entire Batman: The Animated Series.

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