Posted at 5:49 PM on June 20, 2008
by Euan Kerr
While "Get Smart," "The Love Guru" and the documentary "Surfwise" may seem to be very different films, they share a central theme: men (ok read little boys) searching for a way in the world. And in the end the success of each film depends on how the directors deal with the issue in the context of their story.
"Get Smart" the film adaptation of the much loved 60's TV series gives Steve Carrell the unenviable task of filling Don Adams phone-equipped shoes. Carrell fails because he makes Maxwell Smart too competent and too nice. Don Adam's smart was a know-it-all whose ill-placed self-confidence made him oblivious to the carnage, chaos, (and KAOS) around him.
Carrell's Smart veers from ineptitude to superspy and back in a matter of moments and just leaves us confused. It gets worse when Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) looks at him with disdain one moment and then love the next, with no apparent reason for the change. At one point Smart feels the pain of a love-lorn KAOS agent and befriends him, which later helps Smart and 99 out of a bind. It's a laudatory thing, and something you hope would happen in real life, but this isn't real life - it's a cold war spy spoof struggling to stay relevant in the 21st century.
"The Love Guru" has it all: poop jokes, pee-pee jokes, flatulence jokes, an obsession with male genitalia, and enough double entendres and silly place names to sink a battleship. Mike Meyers takes everything he learned in the Austin Powers movies, and blends it into a movie about a Hollywood self-help guru who gets involved in the Toronto Maple Leafs. As Guru Pitka he's called in to re-invigorate a star player who is in a slump after splitting with his wife, who is now living with the star goalie of the LA Kings. If the guru can win save the marriage, the team wins the Stanley Cup, the guru gets $2 million, and more importantly a shot on Oprah. Of course it turns out it's the guru who has lost his way.
Deep down Mike Meyers sees life as a British pantomime, with little substance, a lot of off-color jokes, and anything can be an excuse for a big musical number. I laughed a great deal, and then felt really bad about it. The best, and deepest, moment in the entire film comes in the single out-take in the credits where 'Mini Me' Verne Troyer breaks character.
"Surfwise" tells the story of a successful doctor who, disillusioned with what he sees as the phoniness of modern life, marries the woman of his dreams and takes her off to live in a 24 foot camper. They surf a lot and over the years produce nine children, eight boys and one girl. They lived the wild boho surfing life, envied by the folks who saw them on national TV.
The dad, Dorian 'Doc' Paskowitz seemed to be successfully living the dream. Then the kids grew up and found out that despite being smart and good-looking, they were having real problems making it in the world without a formal education. They fell out with their parents and with each other. In "Surfwise" director Doug Pray tells a compelling and chastening story about the joys and responsibilities of freedom.