The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.
Ecclesiastes 15:2 & 18:2
I thoroughly enjoyed the 1965 TV series “Get Smart,” a funny spoof of the James Bond movies. Maxwell Smart was such a bumbler, cut from the same cloth as The Pink Panther’s Inspector Jaques Clouseau, also from the Sixties. Working with the beautiful Agent 99 in CONTROL, a rival agency to the CIA, Maxwell Smart, despite himself, always managed to thwart the evil plots of KAOS, the Soviet Union’s top secret agency. Steve Carell’s big screen version of Smart is just as bumbling as ever, but far more intelligent than in the TV version. I was not sure how this would turn out, but was glad to see that he is a little more believable a character this time, and the laughs at his expense just as frequent.
At the beginning of the film Max is an analyst assigned to listen in on the conversations of foreign leaders. His lengthy reports include such details as an enemy’s discussion of muffins, which Max interprets as a desire for comfort, meaning that the enemy is under stress. His longing to be an agent is laughed at by the arrogant colleagues who already have reached that status, but, we are surprised to learn, it is not due to his dumbness. The Chief (Alan Arkin) informs him that he has passed the tests, but he is so good an analyst that he does not want to lose him in that capacity. This soon changes when an attack from KAOS leaves the Control HQ a shambles, and brings our hero into close contact with the beautiful Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway). A serious leak has given KAOS the identity of all of Control’s secret agents, leading to their assassination. With reports that KAOS, lead by the ruthless but brilliant Siegfried (Terence Stamp), is developing nuclear devices that can be sold to foreign powers, the Chief reluctantly teams Max with Agent 99 and sends them off to Moscow. Agent 99 is less than pleased by having to work with someone she considers an idiot. How her attitude changes and the two become a couple adds up to a funny and thrilling tale.
The film is unlike most cheaply made spoofs in that great expense and care has been given to the fights and action scenes, the chase sequence being as thrilling as anything in a James Bond film. Max’s special Swiss Army knife would also make a welcome addition to Bond’s store of ingenious gadgets, only Bond would have had none of the problems that Max has in trying to use it. Also, it is hard to believe that the filmmakers never set foot in Moscow, the images of the Kremlin and the great domed cathedral are so seamlessly inserted. No great themes to discuss, just a fun way to escape from the real world for a while.