Movie Review
"Get Smart and The Love Guru"
by Bill Gallagher

What’s funny one day may not seem very funny on another day. Whatever made you laugh this morning wouldn’t get a rise out of you tonight. Sometimes we’re easily amused. Other times nothing seems funny. But we need funny. That’s why movie comedies matter.

When you need a sure laugh, where do you go? To see what’s on TV? Good luck. How about to the movies? He shoots. He scores. That’s exactly where you go. Or, what’s more likely: You rent a comedy, pop it in the player, hope it doesn’t malfunction, and get ready to laugh.

In the next few months you may be tempted to turn to a couple of movies that recently opened — “Get Smart,” starring Steve Carell, and “The Love Guru,” starring Mike Myers.

Let me warn you right now. The number of laughs you’ll get out of “Get Smart” and “The Love Guru” do not justify even renting these two duds someday. I know a lot of people who never go out to movies. One likes to brag about “Saving Private Ryan” being the last movie he saw in a theater. So friends look at me funny when I tell them I saw “Get Smart” and “The Love Guru” on consecutive nights in late June.

Keeping score, I’d say that I definitely got more (but not many) laughs out of “Get Smart.” This remake of a Mel Brooks/Buck Henry sitcom from the ’60s again raises the question about television series made into movies decades after they were popular: Why? If the noble intent is to provide us with that therapeutic laugh I mentioned earlier, who could complain? But cracking the box office safe is really the reason the movie industry keeps spewing out stylish but shallow retreads of shows that are way older than our oldest kids. Some fail miserably. I’m sorry for your losses, but I feel better about the tastes of the American public if that’s the case.

“Get Smart” stars Carell as Maxwell Smart, an analyst for CONTROL, a super-secret U.S. spy organization that is apparently still fighting the last war. The one with the Russians. KAOS is its Commie counterpart. Max wants to be a field agent. But he’s too valuable as an analyst. Then KAOS somehow infiltrates CONTROL headquarters and kills a bunch of agents. Maxwell Smart, it’s star time!

He hooks up with Agent 99, a surprisingly hot Anne Hathaway. (Does that sound a bit lecherous? Sorry. This is my first encounter with Ms. Hathaway, having skipped “The Princess Diaries” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”) Their mission is to gum up the works of a nuclear weapons export operation somewhere in the old Eastern Bloc that’s scenic enough for them to travel country roads on a small motorcycle and then a Ferrari.

Believe me, the plot is not the thing here. It’s all about action and characters.

Where do you want to begin?

Among the somewhat interesting characters thrown into this sitcom stew is Terence Stamp, a great British actor, who plays the head of KAOS. And if you saw “Borat,” a movie I have some issues with but that is many times funnier than “Get Smart,” you’ll remember the guy who accompanied him on his trip to the U.S. and wrestled with him. Naked. His name is Ken Davitian, and he’s got a few good lines. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, plays Agent 23. He’s Max’s rival for Agent 99, and he’s also the alpha male agent. I like this guy. But by the last half hour of “Get Smart,” I’d had it with his character. James Caan, Sonny in “One” (That’s how you refer to the first “Godfather,” just as “One.” And the sequel is just “Two.”), plays the president of the United States with no particular flair or style. And I can’t exclude Alan Arkin. He plays Max’s boss, The Chief, the man in charge of CONTROL. His performance was hard to watch. Alan Arkin is so much better than this material.

As for the action, well, there’s a mid-air parachute chase scene at the beginning, but it’s nothing Bond hasn’t tried. There’s a “Mission Impossible” rip-off when Agents 99 and 86 have to maneuver through a field of laser beams. You’ve already seen this scene. But in “Get Smart,” the beams don’t set off alarms and bring the bad guys running. No, they just burn the material they come in contact with, which makes for a pretty lame parody of a spy movie cliché. And there’s the inevitable count-down chase scene as a nuclear bomb is timed to go off in the Disney Center during a concert attended by the president.

I can’t believe I sat through the whole thing.

But I did. And then, the very next night, I went to see “The Love Guru.” Once again, not amused.

Mike Myers first burst on the pop culture scene with his “Wayne’s World” skits on “Saturday Night Live.” Wayne begat Austin Powers which begat some voice work in animated features and strange character roles which begat “The Love Guru.” He’s a funny guy. But this isn’t a very funny movie. It’s bad in a bizarre way.

Random can be a charming quality in comedies. But this isn’t random, it’s reckless. A string of skits can never amount to much of a movie. But I guess Myers figures that with enough Mike Myers, stupid penis humor, and a cast that’s classier than the material, he might make a few bucks.

May I introduce some members of that cast? (Doing so will help you get a handle on how lame this movie is.)

Poor Ben Kingsley plays a cross-eyed guru in India. He’s the mentor to Guru Pitka, the Myers character. This man won an Academy Award for “Gandhi,” for God’s sake. And he was nominated three other times. And they won’t even let him un-cross his eyes. Sad. Stephen Colbert plays a whacked-out hockey announcer always running off at the mouth about his drug use. What was he thinking when he signed up for this? Then there’s Justin Timberlake, a talented singer whose work I’m not really familiar with. In fact, it wasn’t until I’d left the theater that I remembered he was in “The Love Guru” and must be the goalie with the big … reputation.

That Myers has managed to bring together Bollywood, self-help silliness, professional hockey, elephants humping, Ben Kingsley slumming, and Jessica Alba trying to sing is interesting, but not amusing. At all.

Bill Gallagher is the News Director of AM 860 KPAM - the Talk Station, and he writes the monthly movie column for BNW.

BrainstormNW - July 2008

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