EDIT: Due to the clever use of his eyes, NPA reader Nathan was kind enough to point out that Alan ARKIN played the Chief. So replace Alda with Arkin when you're reading this and we're good to go.
I was surprised I liked this as much as I did. I grew up on the Don Adams series and the hilarity of each episode guaranteed by small butt would be glued to the TV every time I heard the classic theme music.
First of all, Steve Carrell is spot on as Maxwell Smart. He nails the stoic nature Adams had even as events surrounding him evolved into ever increasing levels of insanity. Carrell also takes seriously the world Smart is a part of. Death and mayhem are no small element of the spy world, and there was always an undercurrent of violence in the original show. Nostalgia may prevent some from seeing that, but a cursory review of the original series hints at, when it doesn’t outright show, significant danger in the battle between KAOS and CONTROL.
One thing I hated though was Anne Hathaway’s 99. In the show, 99 adored Max. Here they have 99 loathing Max and considering him as beneath her. True, there needed to be some tension but it’s not until right at the very, very end when she even begins to crack. It’s like the film makers realized at the last second that 99 was a bitch and needed to be thawed by Max RIGHT THIS SECOND. It is highly annoying even though by the end, Hathaway does manage to capture some of Barbara Feldon’s warmth and charm.
Alan Alda’s Chief is hilarious. I loved the fury his bookwormish exterior holds at bay. Alda kills whenever he’s on screen. He respects Max for his work as an analyst but doesn’t want to lose that skill. As such, he tries his level best to keep Max chained to his desk. But once events spiral out of control (so to speak), Chief does his best to help out, usually with genuinely funny results. His confrontation with the Vice President left me gasping for air.
The film is a giant bag of silly filled with strong supporting characters like The Rock as Agent 23, Terence Stamp as Siegfried, and that fat guy from “Borat” as Siegfried’s right hand man. Other cameos abound with the funniest one saved for the very end. Oh, and everything that happens to David Koechner’s agent is side splitting. Period.
And for the record, I initially disliked how they did the infamous Cone of Silence but the second everyone started speaking I fell on the floor laughing. The movie does manage to capture the humor of the show while taking things a bit darker than the show ever could. Whether that’s your cup of tea or not is up to you. As for me, I liked the heck out of it and am ready for the sequel.