Johnny English

"OK"

Johnny English Review


Americans have made the "Austin Powers" movies their James Bond spoof of choice, but in "Johnny English" the British strike back with native dry-wit buffoon Rowan Atkinson starring as a bumblingly inept secret agent called up from desk duty when his own ineffectual security gets all the country's top spies killed by a single bomb.

Atkinson's career as a side-splitter pinnacled in the 1980s with a brilliantly acid-tongued historical comedy on the BBC called "Black Adder" (which can still be seen on many rogue PBS stations). He's probably best known this side of the pond for his obnoxious "Mr. Bean" TV series or as the nervous rookie minister in "Four Weddings and a Funeral."

In "Johnny English" he plays a third-tier intelligence operative with delusions of grandeur and an amusingly paper-thin facade of poise, which along with the over-pronounced features of his rubbery face is just funny enough to sustain the snickers between out-loud laughs in this hit-and-miss comedy.

Picking up where the dead super-spies left off, English is assigned to protect the crown jewels during an exhibition -- and they're immediately stolen right from under his circus-tent nose. Chasing down the thieves in a tow truck that was hauling away his illegally parked Aston Martin, he stumbles onto a larger conspiracy to overthrow the Queen. It seems an uppity French aristocrat and distant royal relative named Pascal Sauvage (an enjoyably hammy John Malkovich) is peeved that his family was passed over for the British throne several centuries ago, and he's bent on becoming an usurper.

His convoluted plan involving prison building and fake archbishops is such a mess of gaping plot holes that it's clear co-writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (both of whom are Bond flick veterans) and William Davies (of the awful "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot!") didn't bother thinking much about anything beyond laughs. And even so, many of the movie's gags are telegraphed to such a ridiculous degree that you can see some of them coming literally an hour away.

Yet when the punchlines arrive, Atkinson sells them with aplomb. Making an ass of himself by making foolish assumptions is Johnny English's primary personality trait. He pontificates about the difficultly of assessing how the crown jewels were swiped, not realizing he's standing right in front of a gaping hole in the floor. He parachutes onto the wrong twin skyscraper -- one's Sauvage's headquarters, the other is a hospital -- and holds doctors at gunpoint. These are anything but droll moments on paper, but Atkinson's bluster of misplaced confidence can make them seem hysterical.

Director Peter Howitt ("Sliding Doors") gets a lot of mileage out of each joke without riding any of them to exhaustion like some aforementioned spy satires do -- and some of the movie's best lines are just throwaways, as when one of Sauvage's henchmen in his high-security skyscraper is pricked with a truth serum needle and offers up an escape route out of the building as if he's giving friendly directions to a lost tourist.

Other strokes of stupidity and ham-handed writing are harder to forgive. Sauvage records a DVD detailing his evil plan with maniacal glee for no reason other than having English stumble upon it, then mix it up with a surveillance video of our hero mugging in front of his bathroom mirror. Because formula dictates there has to be a love interest, English is teamed with an out-of-his league Interpol agent -- played by doe-eyed, pouty-lipped, perfect-skinned pop chanteuse Natalie Imbruglia -- who is a dead-sexy knockout in a backless evening dress but otherwise largely superfluous.

What's worse is that the plot falls apart in its climax, which depends not on Johnny English's unsuspected smarts, or even his dumb luck, but on calm, calculating Sauvage blowing his top in "You can't handle the truth!" style and conveniently revealing his megalomania to the entire world live on TV.

Yet thanks to the precision clowning of Atkinson and what is, until that last scene, the wittily nonchalant arrogance of Malkovich (who relishes in the cartooniest French accent in movie history), "Johnny English" earns enough raucous laughter to send audiences home wanting to describe scenes to their friends.



Johnny English

Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th July 2003

Box Office USA: $28.0M

Box Office Worldwide: $160.6M

Budget: $40M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, StudioCanal

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 79

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Johnny English, as Pascal Sauvage, the Greedy Frenchman, as Lorna Campbell, Tasha de Vasconcelos as Countess Alexandra - Exotic Woman, as Bough, English's Sidekick, as Agent One, as Carlos Vendetta, as Dieter Klein, as Official at Funeral, as Prime Minister, as Pegasus, Head of MI7, as Pegasus' Secretary, Rowland Davies as Sir Anthony Chevenix, Philippa Fordham as Snobby Woman, Tim Berrington as Roger, Simon Bernstein as Assailant

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Advertisement
Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.