The 2008 Movie

The Old "Start Out With a Bad Script and You End up With a Bad Movie Trick!"

Updated: June 27, 2010

     Peter Segal's Not Smart opened on June 20, 2008 to a solid box office and poor reviews, a combination Hollywood will take every time. When it comes to reviews, Roger Ebert and Entertainment Weekly liked it; Variety, Time, Newsweek, MTV, The Hollywood Reporter, and most everybody else didn't like it. Clearly, it failed to generate any buzz, as summer smashes, Wall E, The Dark Knight, and Sex and the City did. On the other hand, it made money and that's all that the studios really care about. The Direct-to-DVD sequel (Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd: Out of CONTROL) was a complete bomb and that did lead to some worry about doing a theatrical sequel. However, the DVD release of the movie did okay and that has led to a sequel moving into development.

Photo copyright Warner Brothers and used with their permission.

"(The movie) couldn't buy a laugh in a nitrous oxide factory with a fistful of clown noses." - The San Francisco Chronicle

SEQUEL (NEW!): In a recent interview Carell discussed a sequel to the movie and claimed it would take a completely new direction than the old one. Perhaps actually being funny could be that new direction. As mentioned on this page months ago, Producer Andrew Lazur confirmed that the script for a sequel has been written by Steve Carell. What he didn't mention is that Carell rejected the sequel script submitted by the hacks who wrote the first movie. One major issue when doing remake movies is that there's always a ton of interest in the first movie, as people want to see how it's recast and redone. Sequels to remakes need to be solid movies that can stand entirely on their own (like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or The Dark Knight). If the second movie is a carbon copy of the first (A Very Brady Sequel, Pink Panther 2)they fail and so Carell correctly realized that this needs to be an outstanding script and took matters into his own hands. It's a great sign for a funny script.

As it has been for over a year, any talk of shooting dates or definite plans to shoot a sequel are still not in discussion. Carell has many other options on his plate that are more desirable to him. Director Peter Segal also has two other movies ahead of a sequel in the schedule and I would be stunned, though delighted, if Segal was not at the helm of a sequel.  You may remember that many, many people were unhappy with the script of the first movie (and the fact that Brooks, Henry, and Stern were completely left out of its creation). However, production schedules and contracts moved the production forward despite this unhappiness. It's a great sign for the sequel that someone key to its filming is demanding an outstanding script and may even be pitching in to create one.

SEQUEL (OLD): Studio surveys showed that after leaving the theater moviegoers were not anxious to see more Get Smart so no immediate sequel plans were begun. For example, the sequels to Iron Man and Sex and the City, which were released a month before Not Smart, already have been finished and released because of strong public demand, while plans for a GS sequel are languishing. After the movie sold well on DVD its first week, the sequel was moved into "active development." Then, plans got delayed when Pete Segal was announced as the director of the latest movie in the Meet the Fockers franchise. However, barely two weeks after being trumpeted as the perfect director to continue the franchise, Segal was "removed" from the project (which happens often in Hollywood). No one is saying why, but Segal was canned after meeting with the cast and sharing his ideas with them, so you can draw your own conclusions. Being dumped from that well-received comedy franchise freed up Segal to direct the sequel. Segal instead went back to work on Shazam, where the one-dimensional characters he directs will make much more sense. The GS sequel is now tentatively scheduled for a late 2012 or early 2013release, but there remains a chance that it won't be made or will be pushed back further. The plan of the first script was going to try and reflect current political reality and have a black president, as well as feature Hymie more prominently. The sequel will star Carell, Hathaway, and Arkin. There also was a plan to shoot the sequel in New England, as that's where Steve Carell vacations with his family.

"Gags fall flat, one-liners lack pizzazz and the leads generate little chemistry."- Matt Stevens, E! Reviews

THE MOVIE'S QUALITY: After my first review of this movie's script I was accused of being "biased" towards the original and unable to adjust to a Get Smart without Don Adams, which were ridiculous claims. I was always in favor of a high-quality Get Smart remake and wish I would have gotten one. Above all, the original series stood for quality comedy. Most industry professionals and critics felt the same way, as evidenced by the original series' four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series and its extensive critical acclaim. The most important thing a Get Smart movie had to do was to be funny. I, along with most fans, wanted that above all else. Let's see what kind of award nominations the movie received for quality:

Academy Award Nominations: 0 
Golden Globe Nominations: 0
Writers Guild Awards: 0
MTV Movie Award Nominations: 0
LA Film Critics Awards: 0
NY Film Critics' Awards: 0

MY TAKE (Spoilers): As regular readers of this site know, I was disappointed with the quality of the scripts and many other things about this production, despite a stellar cast, and have not been shy about stating my disapproval. I felt that the movie was not just bad, but terrible and it all goes back to the script, which made Mr. Belvedere look good. I am biased, in that I am a fan of quality comedy, but given the horrible reviews this movie received from multiple sources, I'm clearly not the only person doesn't like the movie. I have always been in favor of a high-quality, funny, Get Smart movie and I sure wish we had gotten one. I'd also like to mention to all those who accused me of reviewing a "fake script" or "too early a draft" that the scripts I reviewed were pretty much identical to the finished product and that the flaws I've been mentioning were also mentioned by most professional reviewers. My review:

I thought it was awful - unfunny, boring, and pretty much plot-free. The opening scenes (besides being virtually identical to Johnny English) were snooze central. Once Max and 99 embarked on their mission, it got even worse. This castrated version of what was supposed to be Max and the hyper-aggressive 99 were caricatures, not real characters. There wasn't an ounce of believability or humanity in either character. I was told by people who spent significant time on the set that Peter Segal is a technical director in that he spends a lot of time with the lighting, composition, and other technical aspects and very little time with the actors on their performances. It really shows in the inconsistent and shallow characters of this movie, which looks great and has less depth then a Three's Company episode. The flashback scenes where Max and 99 look back on each other to realize their true feelings towards each other were ridiculous because there was no foundation to them. 99 looks back with love on her motorcycle ride with Max? She spent the entire time berating him, not having fun with him. The flashback scene of the motorcycle ride lasted longer onscreen then the actual ride did. It was harder to find the villain in a Scooby Doo episode then to figure out that The Rock was a double agent.

Larabee and Siegfried? Pathetic. After mentioning that they weren't in the first draft script I read, I was told that Peter Segal excitedly told several people to let me know that I should be excited too because they had added Larabee, Siegfried, and Hymie. No, what Segal did was take characters already in the script and give them the name of Get Smart characters. In fact, since I have several versions of the script, that's exactly what they did with Siegfried and Shtarker. The villains were just written as villains and given names of basketball players with no effort made to create an original or interesting villain, let alone one that resembled Siegfried. All they did was use the "Replace" key in Word and switched names. Did the writers of The Dark Knight just write a generic villain and then name him the Joker? Of course not. Larabee as a mean bully? Larabee and Agent 91 as dumb, rude guys who insulted their co-workers instead of working with them? Please. Just awful, with dialogue out of King Frat. Saying the movie Larabee and the show's Larabee were the same because both were dumb CONTROL agents is like saying Mark Texiera and and Marv Throneberry are the same because both are first basemen. Siegfried was a completely generic villain with no charm or charisma, which is tough to do with such a great actor as Terence Stamp. A friend of mine called this movie's version of CONTROL a frat house, with it becoming Revenge of the Nerds and he is right, only Revenge of the Nerds was funny. They even did that with Hymie, having him suddenly become streetwise and bullying back the bullies. Hymie is an innocent and that innocence and naiveté was the source of his humor. If he had been a funny bully, that would have been great, but he was just a stupid bully, with nothing that set him apart other than being super-strong.  The only portrayal that was true or had character was Bill Murray. However, they really could have made that role funny by giving the role to Dave Ketchum and playing up how "I've been in this tree for 40 years." Of course, that would have meant recognizing the original series so that concept was out.

It's not just that it wasn't Get Smart, but that it wasn't funny at all. That's the greatest sin of all. If you want to change Get Smart and its characters, that's fine, but to be unfunny, that's just a complete failure. I went in with low expectations because in his career Pete Segal has shown that his idea of subtle comedy is a kick in the crotch and there were more kicks in the crotch in this movie (six) then laughs. The funniest line in the movie was when Carell tells Anne Hathaway that "your boyfriend is a very bad person." The audience burst into laughter at that one and it was an unintentional joke. Don't even get me going about the dance scene or the adolescent "are you looking at my butt?" as if now 99 is 16 years old. The airplane bathroom scene (in addition to being lifted from another movie) is appalling and irritating to me. It's similar to Segal's sperm bank scene from Naked Gun 33 1/3. Both were pointless and reminded me of jokes done by middle school boys.

The soundtrack was great. I loved how the composer worked in the original theme in the action sequences. It's important to mention that the movie's theme is clearly based on Irving Szathmary's original theme, despite Szathmary receiving no credit until the DVD release.

I thought it failed as a comedy, an action movie, and as a Get Smart movie. I could do paragraphs on that, but I won't. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen - that goes to Nothing But Trouble, but it's the worst I've seen in years.

Now, let's take a look at what the major reviewers had to say:

Were Mel Brooks, Buck Henry, and Leonard Stern involved in the movie?

A resounding "no!"

The massive WB publicity/spin machine really worked overtime to try and disguise the facts of this case. Unlike other sites that claim to bring you cool movie news, I don't change the facts or my opinion in order to score sneak previews and exclusive interviews, so this is the straight story. It's also a matter of public record if anyone actually checked out things before printing them anymore. 

In a purely financial move dictated by studio lawyers, Warner Brothers claimed that Mel and Buck created the show as a "work-for-hire" for Talent Associates, and therefore did not deserve credit or any financial compensation for creating the show. The legal eagles behind this move forbid any contact between the movie's creative team and Stern, Brooks, or Henry. When the movie began shooting on March 21, 2007 this edict was still in effect. The script, direction, and characterization were all completed with ZERO input from Brooks, Henry, or Stern. Brooks and Henry hired noted intellectual property lawyer Marc Toberoff, who has made a career of beating WB. The case went to the Writers' Guild, who naturally ruled against Warner Brothers. Despite losing, or maybe spitefully losing, lawyers continued to prevent the movie's creative team from contacting the show's original creative team. If you read the press release sent out to announce the start of production of the movie, there's not a single mention of Brooks and Henry, let alone Leonard Stern. Then, on April 11th, Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere released the story of the snubbing and lawsuit as a rumor substantiated by a very reliable anonymous source. The negative backlash was immediate and intense. Within 48 hours of Wells' bombshell, Warner Brothers signed a deal with Mel and Buck to be "creative consultants" to the movie. However, the script had been completed and over three weeks of principal photography had been completed, so their input was not major, nor did they have any say in the creation of the script or the movie, as there was NO CONTACT between the original creative team and the movie's creative team until April 12th at the earliest.

Let me make an important point. This strategy was not endorsed by the movie's creative team. Once the deals were signed, the original creative team were invited to the set and treated with the respect and courtesy that they deserved. In no way should the lawyer's action reflect on Peter Segal or anyone else. However, that action did reflect on the movie's quality.

It's a shame that a ridiculous legal fight to increase the studio's profits stood in the way of allowing Stern, Brooks, and Henry the chance to consult before the major characterizations and plot points were established shooting started. I firmly believe that if there wasn't such a negative backlash about their ignoring the original creative team, including the 10,000+ of you who signed my online petition, that none of this would have come about. I find it fascinating to suddenly hear the "new" history of this movie's creation, which includes a completely different attitude towards the original and its creators, as they backpedal quicker than Bill Clinton after they found Monica's stained dress. It's quite a different story from what they were saying when production on this movie began, but it's gratifying to hear this turnaround. Everyone is now pretending that the lawsuit didn't exist and that everyone was on board with the movie from the start, but that's just not true and anyone who wants to look up WGA records or statements from Peter Segal before April 2007 can easily verify that. So let's be quite clear - this movie's concept was created and written WITHOUT ANY INPUT from the original creative team. Despite what publicists are trying to get you to believe, this movie featured Pete Segal's Get Smart, not Mel Brooks', Leonard Stern's, or Buck Henry's. It is up to you to decide whether Segal's version has the same style, class, and wit that characterized the original.


Copyright 1995-2009 Carl Birkmeyer