The Nude Bomb (1980) / Comedy-Adventure
aka The Return of Maxwell Smart
MPAA Rated: PG for brief nudity and innuendo
Running time: 94 min.
Cast: Don Adams, Andrea Howard, Dana Elcar, Vittorio Gassman, Norman Lloyd, Sylvia Kristel, Rhonda Fleming, Pamela Hensley, Bill Dana, Gary Imhoff, Sarah Rush, George Lazenby (cameo)
Director: Clive Donner
Screenplay: Bill Dana, Leonard B. Stern, Arne Sultan
Review published July 27, 2007
Maxwell Smart (Adams, The Love Boat), the dimwitted super-spy from the hit TV series from the 1960s, "Get Smart" returned in 1980 for a brand new, racier adventure. Entitled The Nude Bomb, it has lost that title over the years in favor of the more TV-programming friendly The Return of Maxwell Smart (ironic trivia: the original shooting title was "The Return of Maxwell Smart", changed to "The Nude Bomb" because they thought it would make a more marketable movie). The gist of the film is that an agent from the super-terrorist organization, KAOS, is threatening to rid the world of all clothing if demands aren't met, using a bomb capable of destroying all forms of fabric. It's up to Agent 86 of CONTROL (mysteriously changing its acronym to PITS - Pentagon Intelligence Taskforce Service), Maxwell Smart, to put an end to these nefarious plans, although wherever he turns, trouble seems to follow. He suspects there may be a double agent trying to put a wrench in the works, but who?
Don Adams returns to his most famous of roles, joined by Robert Karvelas, who plays Larrabee, as the only members of the show to return (although Joey Forman, who plays Agent 13, did appear on a couple of episodes as the Charlie Chan-esque, Harry Hoo). No mention of the fate of Smart's partner in crime fighting, Agent 99, and the Chief is now played by Dana Elcar (Edward Platt, the TV version of the Chief, died several years before filming), though no mention of whether it is supposed to be the same character or not.
Having been a fan of "Get Smart" when it played on TV in re-runs as a kid, I've also caught The Nude Bomb several times on cable, not because I like it that much, but because I tend to forget the fact that it isn't terribly good. Perhaps the biggest reason for the drop-off in quality is that the original TV show had some very good writers and creators attached -- Mel Brooks, Buck Henry, and even star Don Adams had his hand in writing and directing his share. The creators of this film get the basic premise right, and to some extent, the characterizations. They even retain all of the famous catchphrases "...and loving it", "would you believe...", "missed it by that much", etc.), although they seem forced in for fan recognition more so than in making for credible jokes on their own.
While most of the TV show's funniest moments came from the dialogue and satire of popular spy flicks, The Nude Bomb isn't graced with such crisp writing. Rather, the funnier moments occur during some relatively inspired moments of slapstick, such as a car chase between the bad guy and Smart controlling a souped-up desk, a chase through Universal Studios, and a melee involving a dozen clones of Agent 86 duking it out with the clones of Norman Saint Sauvage (Gassman, Sleepers). In addition, Maxwell Smart isn't as likeable here as he is in the TV series. He's more vulgar and smarmy, and has a rather distasteful sexual side that wasn't evidenced much in the small screen predecessor.
The Nude Bomb is probably only of appeal to "Get Smart" completists, as well as those who aren't very particular about faithful recreations of beloved TV series. It has its moments, but the hit-to-miss ratio is a little too heavily stacked in the negative to consider it worthwhile for most. Phony backdrops, obvious stunt doubles and silly-looking props only add to the already-considerable cheese factor. I guess there's a reason why the producers of this misfire lost CONTROL and gave us the PITS.
-- Follows TV's "Get Smart" (1965-70). Followed by the TV-movie Get Smart, Again!, which features more of the original cast, although it ignores The Nude Bomb completely. Another short-lived TV series emerged in 1995, "Get Smart", featuring Adams and Feldon in supporting roles to Smart's son, Zach, played by Andy Dick. "Get Smart" would be remade into Get Smart, starring Steve Carell, in 2008.
©2007 Vince Leo