Weekend Forecast for June 20-22, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

June 20, 2008

Ew, a commercial for The Love Guru!

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It's comedy weekend at the movies, with two heavy hitters attempting to rule the top of the charts. The odds are good, though, that we'll see one of them dominate, with the other more likely to be June's first bomb.

It's hard to imagine a current actor more suited than Steve Carell to step into the role of Maxwell Smart, the bumbling secret agent in this week's Get Smart, based on the 1960s TV series. Smart, an agent for the spy agency CONTROL who succeeds in spite of himself, was played by Don Adams in the original series with a cocksure cluelessness, something that fits Carell to a T. Think "Michael Scott, international spy" and you're halfway there.

In this adaptation, an attack by the terrorist organization KAOS has left CONTROL short on field agents, so the career desk jockey Smart gets a promotion, given a code name of 86 and sent into the field with Agent 99 (played here by Anne Hathaway) to try and stop KAOS's evil plans. He's the best we've got, unfortunately.

Get Smart was a parody of spy shows – not so much James Bond, but things like The Man From UNCLE, which were focused on gadgetry and Cold War shenanigans. That doesn't really exist so much anymore in pop culture (maybe 24), but "bumbling but well-meaning secret agent" isn't a tough concept to grasp for audiences. Get Smart was the pop culture catchphrase generator of the day, thanks to concepts like the shoe phone and the cone of silence (kids, ask your parents).


Carell and Hathaway are joined in the film by Dwayne Johnson (officially no longer The Rock), Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp, for a solid roster of recognizable names, character actors and comedy legends. Most of the show revolves around Carell, who has really come into his own as a leading man after The 40 Year-Old Virgin. He was even able to open the exceedingly lame Evan Almighty to over $30 million. Imagine what he could do with something actually funny.

Comedy-action can sometimes be a difficult sell – audiences typically like one or the other genre at a time, and throwing the kitchen sink in there can be troublesome or tricky (a notable exception is Men in Black, which got sci-fi in there for good measure). Get Smart could buck this trend, and looks strong enough for an opening weekend of about $38 million.

Someday, there might be an excellent book written about just how a film like The Love Guru got greenlit. Mike Myers, in his first on-screen role since The Cat in the Hat, stars as Pitka, an American raised in India who returns to find his fortune in the self-help business. His first assignment – help the top player on the Toronto Maple Leafs (somehow owned in the movie by Jessica Alba) regain his form after his wife was stolen by a member of a rival team.

This might be one of the more self-indulgent comedies ever created, with Myers both getting to try out one of his by now standard unfunny accents and make a movie about hockey, wherein the Leafs, of whom Myers is a notorious fan, win the Stanley Cup. As big a hockey fan as I am, it's difficult for me to imagine audiences caring about the sport part, and it's far more likely that Myers is going to embarrass Canada with a ridiculously broad portrayal of the sport, including Verne Troyer as the Leafs' coach. Hey, short people are funny!

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