Published on July 21st, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Johnny English
Regardless of Johnny English‘s box office take in the United States the movie is already a certifiable hit overseas. The film broke $100 million dollars across the pond and now enters the US market to add a bit of padding to that number. The film stars Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson as Johnny English a lower level agent in a top secret military organization called MI-7. MI-7 is similar to MI-6 in the James Bond series which English does a heavy job in spoofing.
Many may wonder if another spy spoof was need so long after the abysmal I Spy and the so-so Leslie Nelson flop Spy Hard, but where those movies failed to do nothing more than present visual jokes akin to the likes of Bond’s endeavors, Johnny English doesn’t just copy the stunts and action of the series it makes fun of, it has it’s own off-the-wall story to follow and presents some very funny moments.
The film starts out with, oddly enough, the entire staff of MI-7 being killed in an explosion at the funeral of Agent One, the best agent there ever was, and the man Johnny English strives to be. Since all of the other agents are killed in action, and then seemingly forgot about, English is promoted to find out who stole the Queen’s royal jewels and to get them back along with his much-more-intelligent sidekick Bough (Ben Miller). The character of English is based off of a television commercial spokesman, also played by Atkinson, and where you would think the transition would be hard for a commercial character to make it on the big screen, it seems to work perfectly. Along the way Johnny and Bough run into the stunning Lorna Campbell (singer turned actress Natalie Imbruglia) and the crazy Frenchman Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich).
Johnny English‘s script was penned by the man responsible for the last two Bond movies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day, so the spy/action genre is nothing new to them. They present English with many opportunities to seal the deal on this case, and have him messing each one of them up, some more humorous than others. The problem with most of the jokes, and this has been noted by fellow critics abroad, is everything is staged so blatantly that you can figure out a joke minutes before it is suppose to happen. When it ultimately does, it is still funny, but doesn’t have the same laugh factor as if it was sprung upon you.
Atkinson does a great job as the bumbling English, who doesn’t quite get how to be a spy, but does deliver us some funny moments. Most you have already seen in the trailer but an inadvertent visit to a funeral, and his sports car suspended above London traffic both are rewarding scenes. The movie even jumps into some of the bodily fluid humor more akin to American Pie with a trip up a suspicious looking pipe and plenty of man-ass. Imbruglia as INTERPOL agent Campbell also does a great job in one of her first feature film acting roles. It doesn’t hurt her case in any way that she is impossibly beautiful. Malkovich’s Sauvage, who is trying to be crowned King of England, is a bit over dramatic but opens the door for a wealth of French jokes and the English driven movie makes good on each one of them.
Aside from the customary lame-brained script and jokes you can see a mile away; Johnny English provides the next best thing to Austin Powers in the spy spoof genre. While it seems we may not get another Austin Powers movie we can only hope that Working Title and Universal step up and turn Johnny English into a surprisingly funny franchise. The film won’t blow your socks off, but you couldn’t ask for a more fun 90 minute diversion on a hot summer day.