I was also bothered by the besmirching treatment of Hathaway. As her career would seem to benefit from The Devil Wears Prada and Becoming Jane, now she reaches blockbuster status, and what kind of dialogue does she get? At one point, as she’s maneuvering her way through an elaborate and deadly grid of lasers, she looks over at Maxwell and says “Are you looking at my butt?” Smart replies with “yes,” “no,” “yes.” In terms of the Darwinian face off between the sexes, the stark contrast between Maxwell and Agent 99 would suggest that men are no longer needed. We see other sad examples: Bill Murray inside of tree in a short scene, saying “Who wants to talk to a guy in a tree?” The Jaws-like villain, straight from Moonraker, looks menacing until Maxwell counsels him therapeutically about his life and his wife, in the middle of a fight scene on a roof at night. Eventually, all of Maxwell's talk works his magic on the “bad guy,” so he drops his big piece of machinery and gives Maxwell a hug for his words of wisdom. Lastly, and perhaps saddest of all, we get to see James Caan as the bumbling president making a 9/11 reference as he tries to read a storybook to some kids in a classroom. As he messes up in reading, one boy says “I think you suck as my teacher.”
Curiously, the one actor who seems exempt from the general emasculation is Dwayne Johnson, who plays Agent 23. It’s hard to say why, but I think it helps that he’s not in the film all that much, and his brand of cartoonish machismo has somehow been enhanced by Disney success and his surreal role in Southland Tales.
From its theft from The Man Who Knew Too Much to its weird reunion of Carell and Alan Arkin from the superior Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart struck me as symptomatic of masculine derangement and decline. Somehow guys embody the joke too much for it to be all that funny.