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Get Smart (2008) (Blu-ray)
Warner Home Video / 2008 / 110 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: November 04, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Monday, November 03, 2008
I'm gonna be a heretic and say it: I don't find the 'Austin Powers' flicks particularly funny. (So there.) I know that trilogy has raked in hundreds of millions worldwide, and most find them absolutely hilarious, but I've still been waiting for the definitive Hollywood spy spoof. Which is why I greeted the news of a 'Get Smart' update with anticipation. Perhaps this time -- and especially with Steve Carell starring as Maxwell Smart -- they'd finally hit the comedic bull's-eye, and we'd get the 'Airplane!' of spy movies. Alas, 'Get Smart' doesn't really hit that lofty target but it's still a pretty good try and, for my money, made me laugh harder than all three 'Austin Powers' flicks combined.
Remaking 'Get Smart' is a tricky business, as the original '60s spy series was already a lighthearted satire of the James Bond movies. So the big-screen 'Get Smart' had to tread cautiously, and try to stay true to both the series, as well as get hip by satirizing the legion of spy flicks (including Bond and Bourne) that have followed over the past several decades. Impressively, the result is that 'Get Smart' 2008-style is actually an enjoyable romp that works on its own terms as a generic spy pastiche (even if you have never seen the Don Adams version), yet is even funnier if you have at least a passing familiarity with the original series.
Carell takes over for Adams as Maxwell Smart, a seemingly innocuous CONTROL analyst who, we will discover, is really a secret agent for the top-secret espionage agency. The film wastes no time thrusting Max into a complex plot of global proportions. Forced to hook up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), they must thwart a plan by the rival KAOS agency to infiltrate CONTROL and derail the agency from within. Along the way, Max and Agent 99 will meet up with a variety of fellow agents (many of them may be duplicitous in their motives), deal with CONTROL's often ludicrous inner-workings (particularly funny are Alan Arkin and Dwayne Johnson as over-the-top operatives) and stop KAOS' arch-villain (Terence Stamp) before he can carry out the agency's devious plan.
Despite some none-too-subtle allusions to the Bush Adminstration's "weapons of mass destruction," the plot is inconsequential, a clothesline upon which to hang various gags and satiric setpieces. The success of 'Get Smart' rests almost entirely on the shoulders of Carell and Hathaway. Thankfully, they make a great comedic pair, and even generate a sexy, simmering chemistry. Carell doesn't veer much from his now-patented shtick of dry asides and borderline-gibberish improvisations, but he's probably the perfect fit for Maxwell Smart and even bears a passing resemblance to Adams. Hathaway has the tougher role and is actually better -- she plays the straight man, but easily holds her own against Carell, even making his jokes funnier with her deadpan expressions. The supporting players are nicely played, too, particularly Johnson (who has great fun with the physical comedy) and Stamp, who could easily pass for a genuine James Bond villain (which only makes his character even funnier).
If 'Get Smart' is ultimately a tame family comedy (there's no vulgarity or even slightly off-color jokes here), that's what makes it so likable. The story is so goofy that the good-natured sensibilities of Carell and Hathaway perfectly gel with the material, while the direction by Peter Segal ('50 First Dates') is often pedestrian but it at least doesn't distract from the stars or the comedy. 'Get Smart' also manages to work in numerous references to the original series, retaining most of the iconic characters and famous lines (everything from Agent 13 cramped into a tree, to the classic "Missed it by that much!" make an appearance) without it feeling too forced. 'Get Smart' isn't a great movie, it's not even an ambitious spoof, but it aims to do nothing more than entertain, and on that level it hits the mark. Add to that great chemistry between its leads and a script that works as well for fans of the original series as the casual viewer, and in 'Get Smart' you have a fun little spy romp that's well worth checking out.
Warner presents 'Get Smart' in a 1080p/VC-1 encode (1.85:1). This is a good-looking, very high-gloss film, which comes across well if not exceptionally on Blu-ray.
This is an absolutely blemish-free presentation, with excellent cleanliness and a pristine, slick veneer. Blacks are also rock-solid and contrast strong, if flat in the upper mid-range (which is most notable in bright exterior scenes, which appear a tad washed out). The color palette is not as vibrant as I've seen on many a new release (reds and fleshtones in particular look dull) but hues are rendered very smooth. 'Get Smart' is very sharp throughout, with only some of the more obvious digital shots sporting a noticeable (if not excessive) softness. Depth and apparent detail remain impressive, however, and the encode does not suffer from artifacts or edge enhancement. I wouldn't call 'Get Smart' a demo disc, but it's still a fine new release from Warner.
For whatever reason, Warner continues their spotty support of high-res audio with 'Get Smart.' The Blu-ray lacks a TrueHD track, so all we get is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix (at 640kbps). There is no telling how much better a full-blown high-res track might have sounded, but as is, this is a decent mix but nothing special.
Even for a plain Dolby track, the surrounds are weak. I expected far more discrete effects and atmosphere. The rears are rarely engaged, to the point where I thought perhaps I had my receiver was in the wrong surround mode. Dynamics are solid if unexceptional, with nice-sounding bass and a perfectly pleasant sense of life to the rest of the spectrum. Dialogue is as polished as you would expect for a big-budget studio picture, and is cleanly reproduced and well-balanced in the mix. 'Get Smart' sounds fine on Blu, but it's hard to imagine that it couldn't have sounded better.
'Get Smart' comes to Blu-ray in no less than a three-disc set. Unfortunately, the extras are far slimmer than they appear. One disc is devoted exclusively to Digital Copy, and the other to a rather elaborate Blu-ray-exclusive DVD game. As for the genuine making-of supplements, they are reduced to a few fluffy featurettes on the main disc. All materials are presented in 480i/VC-1 video only, with optional English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
- Comedy Optimization Mode (HD) - Not a picture-in-picture or trivia track, this is actually a rather clever way to present about 45 minutes of deleted scenes and excised footage. Flick the feature on, and throughout the film a phone booth icon will appear on the screen. Click your remote's enter button, and you'll be taken to an alternate version of the scene you are watching. None of these "Smart Takes" are really better than the finished film, but it's interesting to see how different a joke can come across depending on the delivery.
- Featurette: "The Right Agent for the Right Job: Behind-the-Scenes Training" (SD, 11 minutes) - The first featurette is a look at the casting of Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. Though Carell was a no-brainer for the production, Hathaway had to the campaign for the part. Elevating this featurette above fluff is some early audition footage, illustrating how Hathaway sold the producers.
- Featurette: "Max in Moscow" (SD, 6 minutes) - A straightforward on-location featurette, on the film's journey to Moscow to shoot a few key scenes.
- Featurette: "Language Lessons: Spotlight on Linguistics" (SD, 4 minutes) - Testing the boundaries of "featurette," this is just four minutes of Carell clowning around with his lines, and improv'ing.
- Gag Reels (SD, 8 minutes) - Here we get two blooper reels, "The Vomit Reel" and "Spy Confidential." Both are pretty funny as Carell is a natural cut-up, and both Hathaway and the Rock make great straight-man foils to his very dry wit.
- Sneak Peek (SD, 9 minutes) - Though there are no actual trailers for 'Get Smart,' there is a promo for the direct-to-video spin-off film 'Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control.' This feature is unique, however, as it's not really a trailer but a 9-minute visit with Bruce and Lloyd highlighting the remake's references to the original 'Get Smart' TV series.
- Digital Copy (SD) - Finally, we have a second disc with a Digital Copy of the film (in standard-def) that is compatible with PCs, PSP, and iTunes.
Warner has snuck in a unique exclusive for 'Get Smart,' which is housed on the third and final disc in the set.
- Get Smart KAOS Control DVD Game (SD) - Presented on a DVD-5 single-layer, standard-def disc, this multi-level interactive game is so complex it comes with its own eight-page manual. The scenario allows up to two players to create their own KAOS agent, and journey through seven levels of puzzles and challenges. The controls are simple (only your remote's directional buttons), and because it is DVD-based, fairly simple in terms of structure and difficulty level. Personally, I don't really understand who the studios think these DVD games are going to appeal to, as any hardcore gamer is gonna stick with their PlayStation 3 or Wii. But for what it is, "KAOS Control" is pretty well-designed and executed.
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'Get Smart' is an utterly silly comedic update of the classic '60 spy series. It's also probably unnecessary, as it immediately evaporates from the memory banks as soon as the movie is over, despite the charms of stars Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. This Blu-ray version is pretty good, offering fine video and audio (though there is no high-res track) and decent supplements. Certainly, both 'Get Smart' the movie and this disc could have been better, but it will undoubtedly suffice as a fun Saturday night rental.