What's Going On With Get Smart?
There have been lots of stories swirling around the web in the last few weeks about Get Smart, some good, some decidedly bad. So what's the truth?
First, USA Today ran a story (along with this great picture) about the start of production in which director Peter Segal (50 First Dates) promises that the movie will be "politically satirical." He says it was a challenge to find things to laugh at in the face of global terror. (I guess he doesn't recall that the original series managed to find things to laugh at at a time people were genuinely afraid of nuclear anhililation, just a few years after America and Russia came head-to-head over the Cuban Missile Crisis...) The solution? "We try to show the disconnect between government agencies as we saw right after 9/11 when the CIA and FBI weren't really communicating." Well, that does sound promising, actually.
As far as updating the characters goes, Segal says, "[Agent 99, originally played by Barbara Feldon] is a little more kick-ass and tougher, more emancipated. She's more the female James Bond, teaching [Smart] the ropes." An obvious choice, but hardly very original. Every modern spy comedy does it. Natalie Imbruglia in Johnny English particularly comes to mind.
Aintitcool reported on the story, and added a few comments of their own. Then the entertainment insider blog Hollywood Elsewhere commented on it, revealing themselves to be rather unfairly predisposed against the movie. Later in the day, they followed it up with a link to a negative script review on a Get Smart fansite (which claims that the script is basically an Americanized remake of Johnny English) and input from someone supposedly connected with the movie. He called the script awful, and chillingly said it "makes Steve Martin's Pink Panther look like genius." The source goes on to reveal that Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, creators of the original series, were unhappy with the very idea of remaking Get Smart, but that Brooks likes Steve Carell and offered his input to the producers. Who, the source claims, not only turned him down, but then attempted to screw him out of his deserved royalties.
So, that's bad.
Luckily, a few days later AICN was saying the situation had been resolved, and not only are Mel Brooks and Buck Henry happy with the new financial arrangements; they've officially signed onto the project as "consultants." Apparently that means contributing jokes, and according to Harry Knowles, Carell has already filmed one. Knowles infuriatingly doesn't credit his source for this information, though, so we have no way of knowing how true it is. You'd think there would be an official announcement about such a big development. For now, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope...
As for myself, the cast alone is enough to keep me extremely hopeful about this film. It's a great batch of actors, and everyone seems perfect for their roles. (Which is more than I can say about most 60s spy TV adaptations--Val Kilmer as Simon Templar, anyone?) The fact that the producers and director were smart enough to recruit such a talented cast is encouraging; it shows that they're thinking. Also heartening is Hollywood Elsewhere's buried bit of news that Carell and his Office co-star/writer B.J. Novak have done a pass on the script since the above-linked negative review. And I think the DVD spin-off is a good idea, too.
For now, Get Smart remains near the very top of my must-see movies for 2008.