Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pure Awesomeness

Star Trek is out on DVD!!!! HELL YEAH!!! Get it as soon as possible. I'm not joking.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Nude Bomb: Missed It by That Much

Father: * 1/2  Son: **

Daddy Grigg Says.... Recalling this film through the sepia-tinted haze of nostalgia, I remembered it to be much better than it was. This has more to do with my fond (and no doubt similarly inaccurate) recollections of that period of my adolescence, rather than the merits of this utter turdburger of a film.

As a teenager I was both a Trekkie and a Smartian, which meant that my social life would have suffered terribly had I not been impeccably cool otherwise.

Sometime around the age of 15 I happened to watch a rerun of the fifth season Get Smart episode "Rebecca of Funny-Folk Farm," which left me with an incurable crush on Barbara Feldon's 99. Here's why:

 Needless to say, 99's absence from The Nude Bomb was an immense disappointment. It also underscores the fundamental problem with this movie: It stars a middle-aged Don Adams (burdened with about an inch of pancake makeup and the worst toupee seen on the big screen since Diamonds are Forever) as someone we're told is Maxwell Smart, but who resembles the estimable Agent 86 very little in terms of characterization.

Sure, the version of Smart in The Nude Bomb has an adenoidal voice, a clubfoot, and a way of stumbling to victory in his battle with evil. But this alternate-universe Smart works for something called the Provisional Intelligence and Tactical Service (PITS) rather than CONTROL; he is single, rather than married to Agent 99, with whom he had twins; and he's a foul-mouthed, unpleasant little man, rather than the straight-as-a-ruler overgrown Boy Scout that was the Maxwell Smart of our memories.

The sight of a character calling himself Maxwell Smart uttering scatological vulgarities is really unsettling and more than a little offensive. Also noteworthy for its unpleasantness is Smart's post-Disco wardrobe, which leans heavily on sans-a-belt slacks (part of the unofficial uniform of middle-aged men) and flare-leg dress pants. The latter were an unfortunate necessity.On the small screen it was possible to stage scenes in a way that concealed Don Adams' diminutive size. This didn't work when there was a theater-sized screen to fill: Long shots inevitably required that Adams show a little leg, and the ridiculously ample bell-bottoms were needed to hide his lifts.

The only truly bright spot in this film (which began as a made-for-TV project and was unwisely given a theatrical release) was Robert Karavelas as Larabee, a character who was just coming into his own in the TV show's largely dismal fifth season on CBS (where it was euthanized after four seasons on NBC).

Karavelas was part of the Yarmy Family Mafia -- relatives and friends of Don Adams (nee Donald James Yarmy -- I told you I was a Get Smart Geek) who were given bit parts in the show. Joining Karavelas in The Nude Bomb is Bill Dana, who assumed partial responsibility for the wretched screenplay but managed to extract a few honest laughs in his screen time as a stereotypically Jewish fashion designer (a performance that might be illegal now, owing to our culture's "advanced" sensibilities).

An organization called KAOS is the antagonist in this film, but none of the familiar villains (Siegfried, The Claw -- not "Craw," Claw! -- Mr. Big, et. al.) makes an appearance. Also absent is the distinctive Get Smart theme or any music cues that evoked the original series. That theme and its related cues were inspired by the mid-60s spy vogue, as was the series itself. Neither really fared well in the attempt to update them for the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lalo Schifrin's quasi-disco theme song, "Always There When I Need You," is a serviceable piece of Nile Rodgers-style R&B, but it's a poor fit for Get Smart.

This looks promising enough, but don't be decieved.

That's the entire problem with this film: It's not Get Smart. Yes, Adams was in this movie and his performance was adequate and occasionally very funny. The script was co-written by Arne Sultan and Leonard Stern, who produced many of the TV show's best teleplays, including one that received an Emmy. But more violence was done to the Get Smart premise by The Nude Bomb than was inflicted in the recent reboot, which at least depicted Smart as a clean-living, patriotic man not given to casual vulgarity (with one entirely gratuitous exception).

Don't bother with the plot of this film; the screenwriters certainly didn't. There are a couple of decent action-comedy gags, the best of which involves Smart's "Deskmobile." Too much time is spent on the Universal Studios set, a plot contrivance that serves as both money-saving device and self-abusing product placement.

Three female guest stars are pressed into service as a replacement for Feldon, and -- with all due respect -- they fall dreadfully short. Andrea Howard is Max's partner, Agent 22. Where Adams and Feldon had a natural chemistry that grew and deepened as the show progressed, Howard and Adams have no chemistry whatsoever. Despite having two brief and forgettable scenes, Sylvia Kristel is given top billing (most likely because of her "adult" film notoriety -- something the makers of a film with the word "nude" in the title certainly wanted to exploit). Pamela Hensley preens, poses, tosses her hair and otherwise does her Princess Ardala vamp -- that's "vamp" as in the musical term that describes pointless filler for what otherwise would be dead air.

Delighted as I was to see Maxwell Smart again in 1980, it wasn't until 1989 that Get Smart would make a comeback in the much superior made-for-television movie "Get Smart, Again!" Sure, it was made on a much stingier budget, but 99 was back, as were Hymie, Larabee, and Siegfried. (Ed Platt, alas, died of a heart attack in the mid-1970s).

The Nude Bomb was too vulgar to be cute, and not funny enough to justify the vulgarity. It was over-budgeted to be a TV movie, and too cheaply made to justify a theatrical release.Welcome as it was as proof of the large and resilient Get Smart fanbase, The Nude Bomb was perfunctory, poorly made, uninspired, and forgettable. It really did fill a much-needed void.

William The Funnier Says... While I do agree with my dad that "The Nude Bomb" is too vulgar to be Get Smart, I gotta say that it makes it very funny at times. For instance, there is a scene where the villain (Sauvage) says to Max, "Your bogus ingenuousness is straining my equanimity." Max asks, "Could you put that another way?" to which Sauvage replies, "You're pissing me off." Very funny, but their just wasn't that many of those kind of jokes in this movie.

       I pity it, in a way, for Universal Studios made this movie just to try to get people to come to their Universal Tour, which is extremely and painfully obvious in a scene where Max and Agent 22 were trying to find the ex-wife of the villain, and you can clearly see that they are being chased through a Universal Studios Amusement Park! What was Universal smoking? Whatever it was, it was pretty good because if you had a scene where there was even more gratuitous product placement than in any of J.J. Abrams movies (SHUT  UP ABOUT NOKIA!!! WE GET IT!!!), then you know it's got to be extremely bad.

       The only redeeming thing about that entire chase would be the fact that it references Battlestar Galactica, probably the only good thing about Universal Studios. Even so, this movie seems incredibly unfinished, especially at the beginning with the opening skydiving scene, which should have been at least 5 minutes long and well made, like the skydiving scene from Moonraker (even though it was a lousy movie).

       If you watch the opening to The Nude Bomb and compare it to the opening of Moonraker, one thing is very, very, obvious: Even though Moonraker is a lousy movie, they put some effort into the beginning, and I was actually on the edge of my seat the entire time I watched that scene, whereas The Nude Bomb's opening makes you want to smash your head in with Roran Stronghammer's mighty hammer (I owe anyone who gets that reference a cookie), because it is so pointless and so stupid.

        That pretty much concludes my review, even though I wish that I could write more. My dad has pretty much summarized everything that I want to say, except for the fact that I liked most of the really dark and vulgar humor in it where he didn't.
(Father & Son Reviews uses the four-star rating system, not the five-star or anything like that.)