Making the Grades
In the 1960s, the Cold War provided plenty of fodder for drama and humor alike. Maxwell Smart, a incompetent and nasally secret agent skillfully played by Don Adams in the Get Smart TV series, provided the comedy as he and his partner Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) fought off the advances of evil.
Now Steve Carrell is trying his hand at reinventing the bumbling, but lovable hero. Working in a cement and steel office entombed deep beneath the streets of Washington D.C., Max Smart is an analyst who toils along side CONTROL agents monitoring the activities of Russia's KAOS organization. However, when the identities of the field officers are compromised, the agency needs a fresh face so Smart is promoted from his desk job and sent out to track down the source of stolen radioactive material being used for bombs.
Teaming up with an operation-savvy veteran, Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), the twosome embarks on a cross-continent race to restore world peace. Outfitted with a multi-function Swiss Army knife and exploding dental floss, they infiltrate the domain of conspirators Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and Shtarker (Ken Davitian) while Agents 23 (Dwayne Johnson), 91 (Terry Crews) and Larabee (David Koechner) try and run the office under the direction of The Chief (Alan Arkin).
In the film, Carrell and his cohorts offer plenty of laughs as the eager but inept agent bungles one job after another. Plummeting from a plane without a parachute, harpooning himself with a mini crossbow and accidentally inhaling a potent tranquilizer are only a few of the mishaps Max endures. Luckily, the proficient, though often exasperated, Agent 99 is there to save the mission.
However, many of the movie's other jokes come with plenty of sexual undertones. Innuendos, name-calling, and suggestive flirting are teamed with scenes of male buttock nudity, man-to-man kissing and agents caught in compromising activities. Frequent depictions of gunfire, shootings, explosions and hand-to-hand conflict are also shown.
While the 60's were anything but a simple era, Get Smart still took an ingenuous approach to fighting evil. In the case of Maxwell, even his naiveness and incompetence proved to be a useable, if not effective means, of containing KAOS. Today's Get Smart seems to have lost some of that innocence. The former agency's obsession with nifty gadgets and secret codes has also diminished, with the script relying instead on special effects and sexual jokes to elicit laughs.
Unfortunately despite Carrell's convincing ability to deadpan his role, along with a cast of other comedic talents, this updated spy spoof falls short of being a smart choice for families seeking kid-friendly entertainment.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Get Smart.
Max accuses Agent 99 of profiling another passenger on the plane? What does it mean to profile someone? How do law enforcement officers and government agencies use this tool to help them solve crimes? For more information on how profiling works, visit http://people.howstuffworks.com/profiling.htm
In the film, The Chief disregards the significance of political statements made by actors. Do you think actors are qualified to make political comments about world situations or are they stepping beyond the boundaries of their celebrity status? What current causes are actors involved in?
If you could have any secret agent gadget, what would it be?