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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Johnny English"


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Rowan Atkinson
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Link To Movies/film-ratings.html Link To Movies/film-ratings.html James Bond he isn't, but he's also not Inspector Clouseau. Instead, Rowan Atkinson is "Johnny English", Secret Agent "1", a sort-of hybrid of the suave Roger Moore, and the bumbling Peter Sellars. While the film has some fine moments of comedy, it doesn't quite hit its target on overall creativity or ingenuity. This really isn't Atkinson's fault, but more that of the filmmakers, none of whom have ever made a comedy before.

As is the case with "secret agent" movies, the overall framework of "Johnny English" follows the traditional spy-thriller formula. Here, English is a lower-grade agent with the secret service, but when a bomb kills literally all other agents, he is the only one left to be assigned the responsibility of guarding the crown jewels of England. After they are
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Malkovich Atkinson
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stolen, his job then is to recover them. The villain is Pascal Sauvage, played by John Malkovich, a very distant descendent of French royalty, who owns the largest and most successful prison construction and management company in the world. His plan is to dethrone the Queen of England, take her place as the new king, and exercise the little-known rite of reclaiming all the land in the UK in his own name. What does he plan to do with the island-nation? Turn it into a huge prison that would house all the criminals of the world.

Uh. Right. Well, anyway, the film's framework mirrors the 007 spy-thriller, including the plot, the gadgets and the female counterparts; this isn't surprising, since the screenwriters are Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, co-writers for the last two Bond films, "Die Another Day" and
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Davies Atkinson
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"The World is not Enough." The star of the film being Rowan Atkinson, you'd think that there would be more "Mr. Bean" style comedy, since this was his signature caricature for which most people know him. To his credit, Atkinson portrays a more intelligent agent than the simple-minded Mr. Bean, and his natural comedic abilities extend beyond what we've seen from him before, from his unique and ultra-flexible facial expressions, to his sense of timing in dialog and other physical comedy. Even scenes that are clearly set up to the point where you know exactly what's coming, it's still hilarious to see them unfold. In one scene involving his mixing up two drugs, a truth serum and a muscle relaxant, I was in tears laughing for a good five minutes, even though the entire skit was predictable and not very creative.

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Atkinson Imbruglia
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While Atkinson's work was well done, "Johnny English" doesn't really overcome its downsides: the comedy feels inconsistent, the plot line is sloppy, and the supporting characters don't compliment Atkinson's style of humor. Unlike Peter Sellar's "little yellow friend", Kato, in the Pink Panther series, Atkinson's "straight man", Bough, is more of prop than a catalyst to the antics. These and other problems are more due to the fact that the director, Peter Howitt II, and the aforementioned screenwriters, have never made a comedy before. They are just too inexperienced to best exploit Atkinson's talents or the finer details of comedic cinema.

It's hard to recommend "Johnny English" overall, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it for the bits and pieces that were fun. I do hope he tries again, though. He definite has more promise than I'd expected.

You can find this movie on the internet database here: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0274166

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