Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making of; Self defence techniques;
Character profiles; Observation tests; DVD-ROM extras: downloads,
spy challenge, spy profiler, indentikit; Regions 2/4.
THE latest spy comedy to spoof James Bond comes in the unlikely
form of Rowan Atkinsons Johnny English - a character inspired
by the actors former Barclaycard adverts, who is a surprisingly
hilarious addition to the genre.
Johnny English is to the spy game, what Frank Spencer was to
the human race - a total embarrassment. But thanks to some well-judged
gags and Atkinsons supremely deadpan delivery, his on-screen
antics are likely to have audiences laughing out loud.
The movie picks up as MI-7 agent, English, inadvertently provides
the catalyst for the murder of all of Britains top-level
spies, forcing the government to turn to him in a bid to protect
the Crown Jewels.
When they get stolen by John Malkovichs French business
magnate, Sauvage, however, it is left to English, his partner,
Bough, and Natalie Imbruglias sassy Interpol agent to retrieve
the priceless gems and prevent a threat to the monarchy itself.
As ludicrous as its premise sounds, much of the fun in Peter
Howitts movie lies in finding ways for Atkinson and co to
screw up, while working within the confines of the spy genre.
But scriptwriters, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, seem particularly
well-equipped for poking fun at the 007 franchise, given that
they also wrote Bonds past two outings, The World Is Not
Enough and Die Another Day.
Many of the early jokes, involving gadgets and secretaries, prove
particularly well-observed, while the set pieces (all of which
evoke memories of previous Bond outings) strike the right balance
between subtlety and farce.
A car chase through the streets of London, for instance, rates
among the most inventive I have seen for years, while several
of the scenarios, while blindingly obvious, still manage to remain
My only gripe would be that things tend to get a little too stupid
towards the overblown finale, presumably to cater for the younger
members of the audience, while Malkovichs horrendously OTT
villain appears to be auditioning for Allo Allo with
But this shouldnt detract from Atkinsons winning
performance as English, which thankfully refrains from the crass
stupidity of his previous Big Screen incarnation, Bean.
Given the right material, the former Blackadder star has long
been an extremely gifted comedian, and his latest role provides
him with a brilliant platform to showcase his deadpan delivery.
You cant help but find yourself laughing in his company.
And unlike another Bond-spoof, Austin
Powers, Johnny English doesnt rely too heavily on bodily
functions to get mileage from its humour, preferring instead to
play up to the strengths of its main performer - even though Mike
Myers homage remains equally well-rounded fun.
In award-winning TV commercial form, the character of Johnny
English lasted for 17 missions - dont bet against him extending
that run on cinema screens. This looks tailor-made for a franchise.