Hollywood Product - Get Smart

Espionage satire fails at intellectual stimulation

GENRE: Spy spoof

THE PITCH: When agents for the top secret counterterrorist agency CONTROL are revealed, eager analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) gets teamed with a surgically altered Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to track down Russian nuclear material seized by agents of the evil group KAOS.

MONEY SHOTS: Max deals with a rodent in his clothes while trying to crawl through a clichéd maze of laser beams. Max hangs from the banner of a small airplane and dangles in traffic.

BEST LINE: "There was a guy in the bathroom who was really hot — I mean radioactive hot," Max hastily adds, pointing to his Geiger-counter watch.

WORST LINE: "Minsk-Pinsk in Smolensk. It doesn't get any better than thinsk."

BATHROOM HUMOR: Toilets provide the setting of two scenes, first when Max repeatedly shoots himself with darts when trying to remove plastic handcuffs. Later, Max eavesdrops on bad guys in a men's room while peeing. Three crotches get kicked, and at one point, Max clutches an overflowing barf bag. Max wrestles with an unconscious goon (Ken Davitian) in a nod to Borat's simulated sodomy scene.

CAMEO APPEARANCES: Masi Oka of "Heroes" plays a CONTROL gadget builder. Ryan Seacrest's voice passes a coded message on "America's Top 40." A Ghostbusters star makes a short, odd appearance as ill-fated Agent 13.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Agent 99 first appears in a Nike jogging suit. On a plane, she reads Sky Mall magazine. Max drives a red Ferrari across the Russian countryside and, later, drives Don Adams' red Sunbeam convertible in an homage to the original show.

ESPIONAGE REFERENCES: A sky-diving fight scene clearly footnotes Moonraker. KAOS' use of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in its nefarious plan must be a Die Hard shout-out. Blowing the covers of the CONTROL agents could refer to the first Mission: Impossible movie, and the last act's pursuit of a nuke in Los Angeles kind of evokes "24."

POLITICAL SUBTEXT: The script's references to compromised secret agents, yellowcake uranium and a hostile vice president all point to the Valerie Plame affair. It's pretty sad, though, when gags about a clueless president and airline terrorist profiling were done so much better in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.

HEY, WAIT A MINUTE: Why so many fat jokes? Not only does the film feature fat-suit flashbacks with Max as formerly obese, there's an elaborate dance routine with Max and a plus-sized wallflower at a fancy party.

BETTER THAN THE SHOW? No. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the 1960s' "Get Smart" sitcom wasn't a classic, but it had decent timing and sight gags. Don Adams' nasal performance nailed Max as a bumbling know-it-all, but the film can't seem to decide whether Carell's Max should be likably naïve or insufferably incompetent like his role on "The Office." Sorry about that, Steve.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Anger Management director Peter Segal persistently commits to go-nowhere jokes, such as the idea that CONTROL agents bully analysts like high school jocks pick on nerds. Despite some clever casting, including Carell and Alan Arkin as the Chief, Get Smart plays more like a throwback to the worst action-comedies of the 1980s and not the spy satires of the Cold War. "Missed it by that much?" Missed it by a mile, really.