Underrated: Get Smart is the Best Comedy Film (Don’t Fight It)
By Nicolette Petra
There are few foolproof last-minute cures to a bad day. There are even fewer of these cures that can guarantee to lift your spirits and leave you in stitches on a night-in. Indulging in guilty pleasures like The Bachelor where you chuckle lightly to yourself and roll your eyes at the antics of producers trying (and failing) to misdirect audiences into thinking that anyone other than frontrunner Ellie stands a chance at getting the final rose doesn’t exactly cut it. But you’re in front of the TV so you’re getting warmer.
It’s time to crack out the best comedy movie of all time: Get Smart.
Trust me on this.
I remember seeing the promotional posters for Get Smart on every other bus stop when it was released in 2008, and while I didn’t see it in cinemas or make the connection to the sitcom it was paying homage to, it would in the years to come become one of my favourite go-to films.
If the opening sequence alone doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. (Yes I do, the aeroplane scene. And the ballroom dance sequence. But we’ll get to those later.) The digital font of the opening credits eases you into the classic spy genre your dad loves, but it’s the motivational quotes on yellow post-its and our hero, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carrell), bopping along to Abba’s absolute banger Take a Chance on Me to psyche himself up for his big meeting (honestly, who hasn’t?) that lets you know this is no James Bond film. Oh, no. It’s far deeper. Of course, the joke upon joke writing is enough for most audiences to dismiss the film as simply a comedy. Which it is. And boy, does it deliver.
The beating heart of the film is Steve Carrell, whose comedic timing is faultless. Before he became the recognisable voice of Despicable Me’s Gru or the silver fox that middle-aged women fawned over, Carrell was, in my mind anyway, best known for playing the reincarnation of the late 60s American spy, Maxwell Smart. Okay, sure, he was best known for playing the 40-year-old virgin, Evan Almighty and The Office’s Michael Scott. However, it was arguably these earlier roles, among others, that set Carrell up to be the lead in what is, in my opinion, one of the most stellar comedic performances of his career. His tit-for-tat dynamic with Anne Hathaway (Agent 99), emulation of the original Max Smart’s awkward but overconfident nature, and his endless quotable quotes are comedy gold. Unlike Max who is known for missing it by *that* much, Carrell never misses the mark.
While every scene is brilliantly written, there are some that are some sure to leave you wheezing even when watched on their own. The Cone of Silence scene is packed with rib-ticklers, from The Rock’s head getting insanely small and Max’s insanely large to Max screaming ‘This is the best day of my LIIIFFEE’ after becoming a field agent. The scene when Max nicknames a Chaos agent Easter Island Head on the plane trip to Russia, then has to break free of handcuffs in the bathroom stall with nothing but a miniature crossbow, only to be attacked by the Chaos agent while tumbling towards earth with Agent 99, is every part as wild and hilarious as it is a great social commentary on profiling and prejudice. The bathroom scene alone provides audiences with a list of alternatives to your overused profanities. Favourites include ‘son of a hamster’, ‘mother of pearl’, and ‘ball sack.’ And finally, what’s a comedy without a completely unrehearsed but brilliantly executed ballroom dance number that ends with an epic lift and flipping the bird at the haters with some Lizzo-level energy?
It’s in scenes like this that the film’s deeper meaning lies. At its core, Get Smart is about how we see ourselves, how we measure success, and how we overcome obstacles. Max’s weight loss journey, eager work ethic in spite of the workplace bullies, and upbeat attitude on his path to becoming a field agent is a testament to the importance of dedication and resilience in achieving what we want for ourselves. Agent 99’s character arc sees her go from aloof and serious (because she does not want to blow this mission as she did her last) to trusting of Max, speaking to ideas of self-forgiveness, opening up and proving we can come back stronger than before.
Hilarious, relatable, and, quite frankly, inspirational, Get Smart’s got it all.