Johnny English
Dir: Peter Howitt
Star: Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, Ben Miller, Natalie Imbruglia
Cert / Year: PG / 2003
Format: DVD R2

When Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) accidentally gets all of MI5's agents killed, his bosses have to turn to him to investigate a threat to steal the crown jewels. Of course he fails, and Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich) a mad French businessman who is a distant relation of the queen steals the jewels. Johnny and sidekick Bough (Ben Miller) are sent to solve the crime, and by a process of trial and error (mostly error) they uncover a plot that strikes at the very heart of the British constitution. Is Johnny the right man to save the day? Erm, probably not.

I must admit right from the start of this review that I am a big fan of Rowan Atkinson. He has been great in such shows as Not the Nine o'clock News, Blackadder, and Mr Bean, and he has proved to be one of Britain's most versatile and successful comedians. Having said that his first major big screen outing with the Mr Bean movie was less than successful. For this film he has gone back to a character he created for a series of popular Barclaycard adverts.

Johnny English is a well meaning but ultimately clumsy fool, he is the sort of man who puts the ass in assignment. In short he is the Inspector Clouseau of the spy world, and just like the eponymous inspector it is his own arrogance that usually ends him in trouble. This trouble varies from interrupting a funeral and dancing on the coffin, to storming a hospital mistakenly thinking it's the bad guys base. These are genuine stand out moments that can't help but raise a laugh.

Of course Rowan Atkinson brings his own brand of physical comedy to the situations (yes he gets to pull faces and dance in a stupid way), and in this he is greatly assisted by a fine straight man performance from Ben Miller as Bough English's long suffering subordinate. Natalie Imbruglia is also well cast and adds a bit of glamour to the proceedings. Where things go off the rails a little is with John Malcovich's strange wig wearing, inexplicably accented bad guy. He is effective, but it's a darn strange performance.

The big problem with this film is the clumsiness in which it has been written and put together. It is demonstrated in the way it explains things on more than one occasion, I mean the jokes here aren't just telegraphed but hand delivered in person. For example the scene where they parachute onto roof of Sauvage's office is preceded by a pointless explanatory scene (full of product placement). It both ruins the flow of the film and lessens the following scene's comedic effect. More laziness is seen at the end of the movie when the "real face is a mask joke" (last seen in Austin Powers) is used yet again in a film. Surely they could have come up with something new instead of trotting out this old workhorse of a gag. Slicker writing and production would have removed this wastage and left room for some more original humor that is definitely there for such a great character as Johnny English.

This is a funny film that could have been so much funnier. Rowan Atkinson is the real star of the show and ensures that Johnny English does get the laughs, it is just a shame that a less than polished script often hampers him. The character itself is more Clouseau than Austin Powers thus removing comparison to that franchise, and ensures this isn't just another Bond spoof. In the end you will find some fun to be had here, but maybe a sequel would hit the mark that this film so narrowly misses. Just one last thing, and that is the trailer for this film ruins the final joke. There is simply no excuse for this, whoever was responsible for it should have been shot.


He Knows No Fear. He Knows No Danger. He Knows Nothing.


Johnny: Ok, so I was wrong about the Archbishop's bottom!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Picture 16:9 Anamorphic A bit grainy in places.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Ok but not the most exciting soundtrack.
Features Making of Documentary which contains loads of spoliers
Lame Character Profiles which are more adverts for various products
Observation test leading to some terrible deleted scenes
Verdict Not a particularly good transfer and some terrible extras. The making of is good, but where are the orginal Barclaycard adverts? Overall poor.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home