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HTF DVD REVIEW: Get Smart: Two-Disc Special Edition



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#1 of 1 Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • 6,068 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted November 04 2008 - 01:19 AM

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Get Smart: Two-Disc Special Edition

Directed By: Peter Segal

Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, James Caan

Studio: Warner Bros.

Year: 2008

Rated: PG-13

Film Length: 110 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Release Date: November 4, 2008

The Film

Get Smart, a modern cinematic spin on the popular 1960s spy spoof TV series, stars Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart, an employee of the super secret spy agency known as CONTROL. An analyst known for his beyond thorough reports, Max has been diligently pursuing qualification as a field agent, but is informed by The Chief (Arkin) that even though he has finally passed his agent exam, he is too valuable as an analyst to be used in the field. This does not last long, though, when a breach of security leads to the exposure of the identities of every CONTROL agent. Suspicion falls on the long dormant evil agency known as KAOS and their suspected leader, Siegfried (Stamp). Rookie agent Max finds himself activated in the field as "Agent 86" and partnered with the far more experienced Agent 99 (Hathaway), who remains uncompromised due to recent extensive plastic surgery. Together, this odd couple must foil a KAOS nuclear plot and unravel the mystery of how CONTROL was infiltrated.

43 years after the TV series premiere, seventeen years after the cold war, and eleven years after the first Austin Powers movie, this modern updating of the popular 60s spy spoof seems on the surface to be less than timely. On the other hand, as long as studios are still turning out James Bond movies, I suppose parodies of them can remain evergreen as well.

Director Peter Segal and writers Tom Astle and Matt Ember update the concept by taking advantage of their movie budget to expand the action and location work to a degree almost on par with the Bond movies it parodies. The likable comic cast is top-lined by Steve Carell who wisely chooses not to try to emulate Don Adams' schtick even though he is given a lot of the expected catch-phrases such as "Would you believe..." and "Missed it by that Much". The original series was so intertwined with Adams' personal comedic style, that it would have been impossible to reproduce it without him. Instead, the filmmakers have tailored the film to Carell's strengths, surrounded him with sympathetic actors, and created a hybrid light comic/action spy spoof that is entertaining if not especially memorable.

Despite a twenty year age difference that is partially accounted for via a plot point, Carell and Hathaway have a good on-screen chemistry that helps keep audiences on board for the film's somewhat lengthy (by comedy standards) run time. The film takes an awkward detour from action-comedy to drama at the end of its second act, which is made slightly less awkward by the performances of its leads. Of the supporting cast, Dwayne Johnson offers an amusing turn as the ultra-charismatic Agent 23, Alan Arkin has a fun take on the scrappy Chief who is constantly at odds with the Vice President, and Terence Stamp hits the write comically pompous evil note as Siegfried.

Fans of the TV show will get a kick out of a number of references to the original series such as glimpses of Max's notes for his agent exam with references to the "Claw/Craw", a shoe-phone, a phone booth secret entrance to CONTROL, a red Sunbeam Tiger convertible, and a late in the film cameo from a semi-regular cast member.

The Video

The video presentation fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. For the most part it is a fairly strong representation of the film's generally subdued color palette. Compression issues show up from time to time, such as during a scene where the camera pans across a field of grass, but for the most part, the video presentation is solid and free of artifacts noticeable from a reasonable viewing distance.

The Audio

Sound is presented via an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track encoded at a 384 kbps bit rate. Fidelity is decent considering the low bit rate, and the mix is very active, comparable to the modern spy action films it spoofs. Whizzing bullets, planes, helicopters, and explosions provide a lot of activity for the surround channels and LFE. Alternate 5.1 tracks are available in French and Spanish.

The Extras

When disc one is first spun-up, the following skippable promotional spots play. All are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate:
  • Anti-smoking PSA with scenes from Casablanca (1:00)
  • Warner Blu-Ray promo (1:09)
  • A Christmas Story Blu-Ray and Ultimate Collector's Edition DVD trailer (1:23)
  • Yes Man theatrical trailer(2:28)
  • Anti-smoking PSA (:35)
The only proper extra on the first disc is the option to play the movie with the "Smart Takes" feature activated. This starts with a 39 second introduction from Steve Carell explaining how it works and then launches into the movie. When viewing with this feature selected, the movie will be interrupted by a screen with an image of a phone booth and DVD remote, prompting the viewer to press enter on their remote if they want to see a series of alternate takes and/or deleted scenes from that point in the film. There are a number of funny bits mixed throughout this branching feature, but I was a little disappointed that these over three dozen alternate, extended, and deleted bits were not accessible on their own apart from the somewhat impractical interface. Without getting too spoilery, my favorite bit involves an extended sequence with an actor who makes a cameo at the beginning of chapter five. The "Smart Takes" are presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. They have English audio regardless of what language track is selected for the film, but have available English, Spanish, or French subtitles.

Disc two carries a number of featurettes, all of which are presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

First up is The Right Agent for the Right Job (10:30) This featurette looks at the casting of Carell and Hathaway including clips from Hathaway's screen test, Carell and Hathaway goofing on each other in interviews, and the dance sequence. In general, there is lots of happy talk with very little substance. On-Camera interview participants include Producer Alex Gartner, Producer Michael Ewing, Director Peter Segal, Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and Dwayne Johnson, Producer Charles Roven.

Max in Moscow (6:20) is a brief featurette looking at the location work that was done in Moscow. Discussions include how it was chosen in light of the cold war origins of the television series, how location work adds to a film's production value, locaton scouting, and shooting in Red Square. Carell and Hathaway periodically do an on-camera schtick where Carell gets his facts wrong and she corrects him. On-camera interview participants include Segal, Carell, Hathaway, Roven, Producer Andrew Lazar, Gartner, and Ewing.

Language Lessons (3:29) Is a brief comedy featurette in which a tuxedoed Carell pretends to be addressing an international audience in several languages. He speaks nonsense mock French, German, Italian, and sign language with subtitles promoting the movie and DVD.

Bloopers (5:38) is a gag reel of the only kind of outtake not featured in the "Smart Takes" on the first disc. It is a montage of mistakes, broken takes, and a little bit of between-take goofing off.

"Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control" Sneak Peek (3:13) is an EPK-style promo for the straight to video "parallel-quel" featuring the titular supporting characters from Get Smart that was released shortly after the film opened in theaters. On camera comments come from actor Masi Oka, actor Nate Torrance, director Gil Junger, writer Matt Ember, writer Tom J. Astle, Gartner, and actress Jayma Mays.

The DVD menu also touts DVD-ROM special features, but all this amounts to is a PC interface allowing viewers to access an included unlockable digital copy of the film. For the first time ever on a Warner SD DVD release, this digital copy feature supports Mac computers and iPod portable devices. As with previous Warner digital copies, it is also compatible with the most recent version of Windows Media Player and Microsoft Playsforsure/Vista compatible portable devices. The digital copy is on-disc, and after entering the authorization code, I was able to download the 1.28 GB file into iTunes in about six minutes.

Packaging

The DVDs are packaged in an Amaray-sized hard case with a second hinged tray allowing it to accommodate two discs. The hard case is in turn inserted into a cardboard slipcase with a lenticular motion cover that shows two amusing variations on the cover art. Inserts include a sheet with the authorization code to unlock the digital copy and a separate sheet promoting Warner Blu-Ray discs.

Summary

Get Smart is an amusing if slight updating of the 1960s spy spoof TV series that is presented on DVD with very solid video and very good audio. The most interesting extras on the disc are a collection of outtakes and alternate scenes called "Smart Takes" that emphasize a lot of the improvisation that took place on set. These appear on the first disc. Extras on the second disc of this two-disc special edition consist only of some slight featurettes that are as much promotional as informative, a collection of bloopers, and an unlockable digital copy of the film that is both Microsoft and Apple friendly. Unless a viewer is interested in the digital copy, there is little reason to go for the two-disc special edition over the single disc release of this title.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA