Growing up, I wanted to be Maxwell Smart. I watched Get Smart every evening on Nick at Night, and I dreamed of using the shoe-phone, attempting to communicate with Chief through the Cone of Silence, and walking through 17 steel doors to get to work every day.
So, when I heard that a movie was in the works, and that the actor playing Maxwell Smart was comic genius Steve Carrell, I got pretty excited. As the film came closer, some of the hype started to wear off, as hype tends to do, and I was forced to reevaluate whether or not I should really be all that excited about the film. I convinced myself that it was hard to go wrong with the cast, but as I noticed some less than rave reviews coming in, I came face to face with the prospect that I could very well be disappointed. Would I be like so many Simpsons and Sex and the City fans who found themselves severely underwhelmed by what could have been something so much greater?
Not really. The advantage Get Smart has over those films is that it’s based on a television show I barely remember. Because it’s technically a prequal, there’s not a whole lot of catching up to do, so there was no need to watch the series before hand (as if I could – the DVDs are ridiculously hard to find). Because there was no television show fresh in my mind, I didn’t really care if the movie brought something big and epic to the table. What I really wanted was more of the same.
That’s what I got, and it was just as hilarious as it always was. In particular, this movie is full of those specific moments I was hoping for: the same old jokes from the television show, which turn out to be pretty funny even still.
I even got to observe the origin of what is probably the first romantic relationship I ever felt truly invested in: Agent 86 and Agent 99. I didn’t know why at the time, but that relationship moved me, even as a 10 year old.
I think it had to do with the reason I wanted to be Maxwell Smart. He was a simplistic version of a flawed hero. Maxwell Smart was everyman. He was clumsy, imperfect, often confused, and suffered from common failures, and yet Agent 99 respected him. At that age, as a kid who saw himself in the same light, this gave me hope.
The film does a great job of demonstrating how exactly Agent 99 fell in love with Max. He wore his humanity on his sleeve. He knew he was full of imperfections, and yet he also knew he had certain talents and passions which he wanted to take advantage of. In this imperfect world, he had come to terms with the idea that he might swallow a tranquilizer dart now and then. We all do, don’t we?
It’s almost heartbreaking to see that after Max swallows that tranquilizer dart, Agent 99 does what she has to do to help him out so they can do what they need to do. It’s heartbreaking because this is often far removed from the way the church tends to handle things. When one of our own who “should know better” takes a tranquilizer dart in the throat we ridicule him, gossip about him, pray for him, and ignore him. Wouldn’t it be great if we followed Agent 99’s example and got him dressed and ready for the next mission instead?
Get Smart won’t have you thinking for weeks, but it will have you laughing pretty consistently, and it does depict a sincere and realistic relationship between two human beings: one of them honest about his humanity, and the other who’s still in denial. Kind of like us.