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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

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.