Steve Carell's awkward insensibility works here.

Get Smart – and other thoughts of summer

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Is it always this bad? Probably so. Every summer brings a trickle of barely watchable movies, a few mediocre blockbusters, and one or two good independents. What’s a reviewer to do? First, see and write about the ones that fly into town on the wings of hype, an obligation of sorts. And so it went: Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sex and the City, The Incredible Hulk.

            Of these, only Iron Man lived up to advance word. Robert Downey Jr. morphs from weapons manufacturer to man with a conscience with great charm. Because it’s a comic book, we watch the creation of a super hero who wins out over a super villain (a good surprise), but by the time that happens, the audience is hooked on the carefully laid story and waits in a state of delightful anticipation for the man of metal.

            Indiana Jones brought a modicum of fun but paled in comparison to Indy #1. The Incredible Hulk is all hulk and no story, a bust. Sex and the City offered two hours of four women who believe the good life depends entirely on shopping and men. Without an ounce of joy in their collective crusade to snare moneyed lives, the four actresses are mere stick figures.

            The independents? Helen Hunt’s Then She Found Me was a good try that was diminished by the grumpiness of the main character. So far, the prize for this summer goes to The Visitor, a beauty of a movie, a story acted with understatement and quiet sensitivity. This one could well top the list at year’s end.

            After pecking through this week’s offerings, only Get Smart seemed a possibility. Steve Carell's awkward insensibility works here, just as it does in The Office. But the filmmakers have labored too obviously for their comedy. It creaks. Highlights in the dust: Smart rushing through a series of tech-type security doors only to make his final descent to headquarters through a moldy old public telephone booth. Watch also for an incongruous trap door topped by a stationary duck in the middle of the Washington Mall reflecting pool – a great scene with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.

            I liked also a Swiss Army knife with a cross bow and a flame thrower, a free fall parachute jump ultimately ruined when the filmmakers substitute the ludicrous for the merely implausible. The villain is a caricature, Alan Arkin predictably good; but this movie is a mega millions confirmation that no amount of money or special effects can compensate for the lack of a good story (as in Iron Man).

            As much as I love the darkened theater, I suggest that you rush to the video store to rent The Visitor as soon as it comes out. Take it home, turn off all electronic gadgets, and settle in to watch what we all mean when we talk about a “good movie.”


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