Saturday, June 28, 2008

The person most qualified to lead is the one with the higher test scores. At least, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) believes so, as do most of the kids undergoing education in sunny S'pore. This, Smart boldly declares to Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), an agent with vastly more field experience than him. But it isn't who leads that counts, it's how they are able to partner up, support each other's weaknesses with their own strengths, and ultimately trust each other despite evidence that seems to indicate that they shouldn't, that make them the on-screen pair to watch this summer.

"Get Smart" is one of the funniest movies I've watched this year. The situation is ridiculously improbable, but the moments that kept me laughing were the numerous lines of deadpan dialogue, and caustic one-liners exchanged between the characters. Smart, an analyst and a meticulous office worker gets to face off against violent terrorists, assassins and nameless henchmen in order to save the President (a bit like a George W gone senile) the target of a nuclear detonation in a major US city, as plotted by Siegfried (Terence Stamp).

But Smart is no bumbling Johnny English. Despite his lack of field experience, he is "not totally incompetent". He has the skills, though not quite the finesse of his partner, Agent 99, and lethality of his role model -- the compromised, sidelined and frustrated Agent 23 (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson"). Smart is smart, able to pick up clues garnered from evesdropped conversations and make informed -- if long-winded -- deductions, but is also quite adept at improvising his way around tight spots in a trial-and-error fashion.

Fortunately, his errors are quite forgiving. If anything, Smart gets into trouble more often with his own secret agent gadgets. His personal nemesis is the Swiss Army Knife with additional attachments created for him by his two geeky lab tech buddies, Bruce and Lloyd. For an inanimate prop, in Smart's hands it almost develops a personality that seems to delight in tormenting him.

Terence Stamp, as the evil Siegfried, is most memorable for his stinging one-line insults that are even more deadly than his genocidal ambitions. At the receiving end is the monstrous, yet vulnerable Dalip "The Great Khali" Singh, Siegfried's personal Swiss Army Knife of sorts.

While there are moments of pure slapstick, "Get Smart" with it's inside look at how ridiculous, improbable and impractical spy flicks are turns out to be as smart as movies of this genre can get.

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