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'Get Smart' vs. 'The Love Guru'

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In this corner: an incompetent superspy wielding a shoe phone! In the other corner: a happy-go-lucky guru who wants to save your love life! On June 20, Steve Carell’s latest broad comedy, Get Smart, will bow in at least 3,000 theaters against Mike Myers’ latest broad comedy, The Love Guru, which bows… in at least 3,000 theaters. It’s a dicey move in today’s opening weekend’s everything atmosphere and words like dumb, insane, and reckless are being thrown around Hollywood to describe the face-off. At one time, it was common to unveil two similar movies on the same day. But after George Clooney’s The Perfect Storm walloped Mel Gibson’s The Patriot in 2000, “it [became] the unofficial rule that such showdowns had to be avoided at at costs,” says one studio distribution exec. “Until now.” In February 2007, Paramount (Guru) and Warner Bros. (Get Smart) opted to open their big summer comedies on June 20, 2008, unbeknownst to each other. They had almost a year and a half to rethink the date, but neither has budged. Warner Bros. isn’t commenting but Paramount distribution president Jim Tharp defends the decision to stay put: “Look at the summer and how crowded it is; it’s difficult to find a place to go.”

True enough. Close to half of this season’s wide releases are comedies, and these two films are sandwiched between the openings of The Incredible Hulk and Pixar’s WALL*E. But industry wags speculate that the situation is more complex. “It almost becomes personal if Mike Myers moves for Steve Carell — or vice versa.” May the best ham win.

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