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LAST UPDATE: Monday December 22, 2014 02:10PM EST
- June 30, 2008
- Vol. 69
- No. 25
Picks and Pans: Movies
Worth Checking Out
It's another absurd day at The Office for Steve Carell: His socially inept office worker decides he wants to become a spy. But Carell isn't playing Michael Scott; he's Maxwell Smart—Don Adams' role from the hit '60s TV spy spoof Get Smart. And the funniest part? He actually pulls it off.
Smart, a top analyst for the hush-hush spy agency CONTROL, gets his field agent stripes when CONTROL is infiltrated by crime syndicate KAOS. Teamed with the wary Agent 99 (Hathaway), the gung ho Smart tries to bring down KAOS—without causing too much chaos of his own.
Of course you'd expect Carell to bring the funny, but he also makes a capable action hero and shares a breezy chemistry with Hathaway. There are several nods to the TV series with shoe phones and "cones of silence," but Get Smart effectively stands on its own. It's not always as smart as Smart, but it's the rare action-comedy that delivers both thrills and chuckles.
Abigail Breslin, Julia Ormond, Joan Cusack
My daughter is 1, which means in a couple more years she'll discover the world of American Girl. While I'm already dreading shelling out $90 for a single doll, I'll have no qualms about showing her Kit Kittredge, a sweet family film based on the company's hit doll and book line. As her family struggles to make ends meet during the Great Depression, 10-year-old go-getter Kit (Breslin) sets her sights on being a journalist. When everyone's valuables go missing and signs point to her hobo pal Will, Kit goes into reporter mode and starts sleuthing. The film does take a rose-colored view of the Depression—almost everyone Kit meets has a heart of gold—but it's good clean fun. A bubbly Breslin holds her own, but the liveliest turns come from the splendid supporting cast, especially Cusack as a dotty mobile librarian.
Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo
For the first terrifying 10 minutes, as clusters of New Yorkers fall silent and shockingly begin committing suicide, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan seems to have finally returned to his Sixth Sense and Signs heyday. But his big twist this time is that the film also quickly goes lifeless. As a high school science teacher and his wife fleeing the spreading phenomenon, Wahlberg and Deschanel, both usually charismatic actors, are trapped in a melodramatic mess—not to mention a laughable chase scene in which they literally try to outrun a gust of wind.
Most TV-to-film adaptations turn out—ugh!—as bad as Bewitched. Like Get Smart, these favorites didn't get lost in translation:
CHARLIE'S ANGELS Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu made a heavenly trio in this irresistible '00 film, managing to be sexy, goofy and butt-kicking—often all at the same time.
THE UNTOUCHABLES As Eliot Ness, Kevin Costner (second from right) went gunning for Al Capone in 1987. The train station shoot-out is a classic.
THE FUGITIVE Harrison Ford's 1993 search for the one-armed man who killed his wife turned into a nail-biting chess match with his U.S. Marshal pursuer, Tommy Lee Jones.
Playing a star hockey player in the comedy, the Weeds actor, 39, fell in love with the sport—and Jessica Alba's body double, Taryn Dakha.
HOW DID YOU PREP? Hockey 24/7. I met my fiancée on the set, and even for our dates I'd be like, "You wanna watch some hockey?"
SO SHE LIKES IT TOO? She can't stand it, but she did what she had to do to lock her man down.
IS TARYN A WEEDS FAN? The first time she watched, she saw me and Mary-Louise Parker making out. She was like, "Maybe I shouldn't watch this!"
MONGOL With grand cinema-tography and ferocious battles, this enthralling film examines Genghis Khan's (Tadanobu Asano, right) rise to power. Subtitled. (R)
BRICK LANE An unhappily wed Bangladeshi woman in London (Tannishtha Chatterjee) starts an affair—and finds herself. Understated and affecting. (PG-13)
December 22, 2014
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