We all know about TV spin-offs and even the occasional movie spin-off, where supporting players get a show of their own. In the case of “Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control,” however, the film takes spin-offs to a whole new level. Bruce and Lloyd are a pair of minor characters, nerdy lab technicians, in Warner Bros.’ 2008 theatrical version of the old “Get Smart” television show; and WB are issuing this direct-to-video film, which elevates them to star status, almost simultaneously with their bigger motion-picture release. It’s a clever tie-in, actually. Of course, one’s recognition of the DVD movie relies on one’s having some small knowledge of the “Get Smart” movie, so I suppose WB are counting on the theatrical release attracting a sizable audience. In any case, “Out of Control” is a flimsy film, and though not at all unlikable, I can see cynics calling it more of a rip-off than a spin-off.
The writers, Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember, are the same guys who penned the new “Get Smart” movie, but it appears they saved their best material for the feature film. While I found the new “Get Smart” rather pleasant and funny, much better than I had expected, this “Out of Control” knockoff disappointed me. It looks like a routine television show, by which I mean its sequencing, blocking, and general tone are pretty bland. And at a mere seventy-one minutes, the movie doesn’t last much longer than typical TV fare. That it feels like a television show shouldn’t come as a surprise, either, when you consider that its director, Gil Junger, has spent most of the last quarter of a century working in television. So, expect the movie to play like a series of banal skits, with only the thinnest plot holding the characters and events together.
Like most of the film industry’s old-time comedy teams, in Bruce and Lloyd we get a straight man and a funny man, even if the movie doesn’t quite exaggerate their characters as much (or make them as humorous) as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, or Martin and Lewis. Bruce (Masi Oka) is the brainier of the two and the less inept. He is fond of pointing out that he graduated from MIT and that he has a girlfriend. Lloyd (Nate Torrence) is the klutzy, dorkier one, who has more slapstick moments and freezes up (or faints) around girls. The best thing about the two fellows is their likability and the obvious warmth of their friendship.
The plot, what little there is, involves Bruce and Lloyd working for the top-secret government spy agency CONTROL (where Maxwell Smart also works), inventing tech stuff. It’s the only thing they’re really good at, and some of their devices genuinely work. Most recently, they’ve invented an invisibility cloak (optical camouflage technology) that the rival bad guys, they believe the evil KAOS, steal. Because the baddies have just infiltrated and torn up CONTROL headquarters, compromising most of its agents, the organization has no choice but to assign Bruce and Lloyd to find the cloak.
As romantic interests, Marika Dominczyk plays a beautiful, curvacious, sexy South American spy who may or may not be in the enemy camp, and Jayma Mays plays a cute, petite, sexy CONTROL techie who works around dead bodies, smells of formaldehyde, and helps out the bumbling heroes. Also along the way we find Larry Miller as the Underchief of CONTROL as well as his twin brother, the Chief of the CIA; J. P. Manoux as another CONTROL techie; and Patrick Warburton as Hymie the robot. Additionally, we get brief surprise visits from other cast members of the feature film.
As long as Warner Bros. had the actors and the sets already assembled, making this spin-off must have seemed a natural to them. The writers, as I say, didn’t even have to do much thinking. They probably just threw together most of the stuff the studio rejected for the main film. Thus, many of the gags in “Out of Control” involve gadgets that go haywire, like a pair of chameleon shoes that stick to the wall and ceiling only some of the time, and a zap gun that has the unfortunate side effect of making its target lose his hair. That’s about the extent of the movie’s humor.
“Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control” is not an awful film. It’s pleasantly unassuming and inoffensive. It’s just that taking a pair of mildly amusing guys from one picture and trying to stretch out their antics to a full-length picture of their own turns into an awfully lackluster affair. It was apparently too much of a stretch.
Warner Bros. offer the film in two formats, full-screen and widescreen, on the same side of the disc. As the film is very short, they can get away with this without losing too much image quality. The 1.33:1 full-screen version is a pan-and-scan affair that cuts out about thirty percent of the picture left and right. The widescreen, which I ended up watching, measures a 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio.
The video is fairly soft all the way through the movie, with a fine print grain evident in indoor scenes and a slightly heavier grain in outdoor footage. I assume the filmmakers shot the movie using conventional motion-picture cameras, yet the result has a sort of digital-video camera look to it–not just soft but somewhat flat. Colors are bright enough, though, and given the kind of film it is, the picture characteristics are probably about what one might expect.
Even though there is a wide front-channel stereo spread in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, there isn’t a lot of rear-channel activity. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, this is almost exactly what I found with the “Get Smart” movie in a theater. There is not much range to the audio in terms of frequencies or dynamics, either, with a deep bass showing up only during the closing credits. The soundtrack does nothing wrong; it’s just a bit like the movie, dull and uninspiring.
The primary bonus items consist of three featurettes. The first is “Confessions of a Lab Tech,” fourteen minutes with the movie’s characters talking to us in character and acting silly. The second is “Cue the Anti-Follicular Device,” five minutes of behind-the-scenes shooting with Bruce and Lloyd’s zap-gun routine. The third featurette is “Bruce and Lloyd Tech,” thirteen minutes on the real science behind some of the movie’s gadgets. This was the most enjoyable item for me, the others being more obviously promotional material.
The extras conclude with seventeen scene selections but no chapter insert, English as the only spoken language, French and Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired. A slipcover encloses the keep case, the cover of which uses one of those holographic devices that allows you to see two different pictures depending on how you hold it.
Movie studios are in business to make a profit. If spinning off a video movie to promote another, bigger production makes money, more power to them. Maybe we’ll even see more such spin-offs. The two kids in “Drillbit Taylor” can get their own direct-to-disc movie; Jim Broadbent from the latest “Indiana Jones” installment may have his own sequel; or Peter Dinklage from “Prince Caspian” can have his own miniseries. I dunno.
Whatever, “Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control” is not a very substantial film. It’s more like a series of afterthoughts than a fully realized motion picture. Although the movie never tempted me to throw my shoe-phone through the television screen, I didn’t smile much, either. It’s not a disagreeable film, just a dull, uninspired one.