"Get Smart" is a remake that probably never should have been made; that way we would have the old television show to warm our nights instead of a strangely hit-and-miss remake that tries so hard and steals so much from better films that it ends up as a forgettable mishmash.
The problem isn't Steve Carell, who was born with the comic chops to play Maxwell Smart; nor is it with Anne Hathaway, the new Agent 99. Once again, it's with, dare I say it, THE SCRIPT. Whenever it steals something from the original TV show, or from a comic or suspenseful moment in another, better movie, it reminds us of how much more interesting the originals were. When it goes off on its own, we fall asleep.
It makes a huge comic sequence out of bailing out of an airplane without enough parachutes. The endless falls toward the ground simply remind us that nothng worth smiling at is happening; we know that all will be well, that Agent 99 will come through just in the nick of time, and we are not disappointed. But the direction (by Peter Segal) misses all the comic moments of the episode, so we simply wait till they all land safely. Similarly, a sequence inside a Russian room protected by laser beams has Hathaway and Smart crawling, leaping, and ducking through them - something we've seen in both serious and parody films, but here there's no payoff. When you construct a comic moment, you need to have a payoff that's worth the tension.
The film is actually in two parts; the first deals with making Maxwell Smart into a real, live agent (he's been an analyst of intelligence); the second has to do with an atomic bomb being placed in the Walt Disney auditorium - in the piano, no less - by the evil Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and set to go off with the very last note of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Was this taken right from Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much?" - where the fatal shot will be fired at the last line of the chorus? Yes, of course it was, and it just shows the lack of creative energy that went into this whole project. Where the writers have run out of ideas they instead propose the most bizarre chase of a plane, a car and a train, all on a collision course in Los Angeles and all relying on CGI to make our heroes come through unscathed. But we already know that they will come through unscathed; can't the writers think of something that would be more interesting as we watch it? Apparently not.
There are moments in "Get Smart" where Carell and Hathaway simply converse; they're much closer to the intertextual context, the moments in which nothing much is happening so that we get a sense of who these two are. Unfortunately they are few and far between.