by Mel Valentin
"Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control," Warner Premiere’s direct-to-DVD spin-off of the "Get Smart" film (an update/adaptation of the 1960s TV series), is, at worst, non-essential to enjoying or understanding the big screen adaptation. Calling it a spin-off is only partly accurate. While two of the minor characters, Bruce (Masi Oka) and Lloyd (Nate Torrence), a techie and analyst respectively, from the update are given lead roles here, it’s in their own separate storyline tangential to the main storyline involving the never-ending conflict between CONTROL, a super-secret, government agency, and KAOS, their evil counterpart, a stateless, mercenary organization. Despite a limited budget and a limited running time (72 minutes with credits and outtakes, 62 minutes without), "Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control" still manages to wring marginally consistent laughs from its bumbling leads and slim premise.The storyline for Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control, such as it is, involves Bruce and Lloyd’s latest invention, optical camouflage technology (i.e., cloaking or stealth technology, here taking the shape of a quilt or blanket). Testing it in a joint exercise between CONTROL and the CIA, Bruce and Lloyd discover a hitch that might derail the OCT from being adopted by the U.S. government: a limited power supply. Bruce and Lloyd’s boss, the Under-Chief (Larry Miller), isn’t happy with the failure of their latest invention. The Under-Chief wants to use the OCT’s success as a springboard to an eventual promotion (i.e., so he can become the Chief one day). He also wants to one-up his counterpart and brother at the CIA.
"Should have been direct-to-DVD...wait, it is."
Bruce and Lloyd’s problems go from bad to worse when, after they host a Real Genius-type party in the lab for their fellow techies and analysts, the OCT disappears. Suspicion falls on Bruce and Lloyd’s counterparts in the CIA, Howard (Bryan Callen) and Bob (Mitch Rouse), and a beautiful woman, Isabelle (Marika Dominczyk), who crashed the party. The president (and dictator) of the (fictional) country of Maraguay, (Ruben Garfias), wants the OCT too, with KAOS a potential customer for the new technology. Along the way, Bruce gets a girlfriend, Nina (Jayma Mays), a forensics tech, who ends up joining Bruce and Lloyd on their attempts to recover the OCT. The best the hapless Lloyd can do, though, is flirt (badly) with the cool-as-ice receptionist, Judy (Kelly Karbacz).
Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control overlaps with the Get Smart storyline and characters two or three times: early on, when Agent 91 (Terry Crews) makes an appearance (and disappearance), later, when CONTROL gets attacked, presumably by KAOS, later still, when Hymie (Patrick Warburton) makes a brief appearance, and last, when Lloyd gets a call from Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) at an inopportune time. While references are made to Maxwell Smart (played by Steve Carell in the big screen update of the TV series) and his mission, he doesn’t drop in for an appearance, an obvious disappointment for anyone hoping for a stronger crossover between the big screen update and the direct-to-DVD spin-off. In other words, don’t expect anything as sophisticated or entertaining as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard’s clever riff on minor characters drawn from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet).
Although Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember (they also wrote the Get Smart update) wring a halfway decent number of laughs from the characters and the set-up, they rely too often on easy, often lazy jokes and gags, usually at the expense of Nate Torrence’s Lloyd character, who’s overweight (like Torrence, naturally) and socially inept (per the science geek stereotype). When he’s nervous, Lloyd eats. When he’s scared, he faints. Being around women ratchets up his social anxiety. Bruce is only slightly more socially adept than Lloyd, but even he has difficulty in mustering up the courage to chat up Nina. An additional running joke is made of Nina’s body odor, described as “putrid” by one character. She works with corpses, so naturally she carries the “stench of death” with her wherever she goes. For one brief moment, though, the gag really works as Astle and Ember have background characters riff on the stench, Airplane-style. Too bad the remainder of Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control has little of that kind of inspired lunacy.Television veteran Gil Junger does little to visually enhance the slim storyline. His no-frills visual style consists primarily of pointing and shooting the camera wherever Bruce and Lloyd happen to be and getting out of their way. Luckily for Junger, he can lean on Oka and Torrence’s chemistry to get him (and us) through the lesser-inspired moments in Astle and Ember’s screenplay (and there are many). Next time (if, indeed, there is a next time), Astle and Ember should try a little harder. Here’s a tip: fewer fat jokes. As it is, fans of the "Get Smart" update can kick back with this direct-to-DVD spin-off and lose themselves for an hour with slim, if marginally entertaining, material and hope for a big screen sequel to "Get Smart" in which Bruce and Lloyd get more to do or, at least, a few more laughs.
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originally posted: 07/01/08 14:48:27