It's not every day that you get to see a
comedic version of a super spy on the big screen. Sure, there was
Austin Powers. And the Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson flop I
Spy. There was the Leslie Nielsen flick, Spy Hard.
Casino Royale, Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, and
Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo also involved espionage parody.
Even the Spy Kids franchise has tackled the subject for
youngsters. So it's not every day that you see a comedy spy
movie...it's every other day. And, every other day has come again.
Comedies that model themselves on the ultra-successful James Bond films
have a lot of material for satire. There are evil characters,
looking to take over the world. There are unbelievable stunts and
fights. There is constant seduction of beautiful women. And,
there is an awesome array of spy gadgets.
Johnny English has a slightly different take on the super-spy
from other comedy spy films. Very slightly different. In
fact, his character of Johnny English is very similar to Inspector
Jacque Clouseau from the Pink Panther films, minus the French
accent. He's a klutz. He's awkward. He's also over
Even though Johnny English doesn't have the French accent of Jacques
Clouseau, fear not! Mockery of the French is handled by John
Malkovich, who plays the evil French antagonist. Malkovich has the
thickest fake French accent you'll ever hear.
Malkovich seems underused in the film. He doesn't get a chance
to ham it up, and seems never to embrace the evil and let it wash over
him. He plays it more or less straight, which doesn't help a movie
with precious few laughs. He does an admirable job of reminding us
why everyone hates the French...they're all clearly evil, as films (and
real life) remind us again and again.
Little emphasis is put on high tech gadgetry or womanizing in the
film, though Natalie Imbruglia does a fine job as the token babe.
Instead, most of the laughs in the film are focused on English's
bumblings or bravado.
It's hard for the Masked Reviewer to hate this film. Mr. Bean
has a warm spot in the Masked Reviewer's otherwise cold and empty heart.
It's not the kind of comedy that appeals to everyone (except people in
Britain, where Johnny English was a big hit). There are
some genuinely funny moments in the movie, which are sadly too few
and far between. It's a much more subtle comedy than, say,
Austin Powers, even though it is a physical comedy by nature.
That's not to say that Johnny English doesn't have it's moments
of broad and low-brow comedy. It does manage to meet the
disgusting poo quota rather well.
The name is Bean...Mr. Bean. Or, Adder...Black Adder.
Both of those sound more cool than "Atkinson...Rowan Atkinson" or
"English...Johnny English." In fact, British TV shows "Mr. Bean"
and "Blackadder" are both more entertaining than Johnny English.
If you enjoyed Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, you might like
Johnny English as it's similar in comedic style and pacing.
Small kids in the audience seemed to enjoy the film more than the
adults. It's too drawn out between laughs...something that would
be a 10 second sight gag in another movie becomes a 15 minute scene in
Johnny English. This certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea,
especially because the really low-brow bathroom humor (though only in
one scene) will turn off the people who like the innocent physical
humor. It's very different from Austin Powers. If you
love British comedy, you'll find this passable with a few good laughs,
but not enough to sustain your interest.
Expectation from the Title: The tea-drinking adventures of
Johnny Appleseed's main rival, who traveled throughout Britain, planting
fish and chips across the land.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Rowan Atkinson seems like he'd be very polite.
The Pros: A few funny moments.
The Cons: Slow paced. No one but Atkinson given any
laughs (not that they could spare any). Malkovich and Imbrulgia
underused. Not nearly enough humor for a comedy.