One of TV’s funniest men, the always incomparable Rowan Atkinson, returns to the big screen in “Johnny English”, a British spy spoof taking the Mickey out of every Shaken, Stirred and Martini dry.
A cross between a Zucker spoof and a SNL Sketch, “English” centers on a bumbling, overconfident MI-7 agent, investigating a possible plot to see the monarchy over thrown and replaced by a Machiavellian French business magnate (John Malkovich).
With the assistance of partner Bough (Ben Miller) and offshore agent Lorna Campbell (singer Natalie Imbruglia), he’ll collide and wallop his way around old London town, ultimately – whether it’s on purpose or not – saving the day.
Like a T section whose tar meets in the middle, “Johnny English” is a bit of a mixed bag. Some gags – one where our titular character thwarts a red-light camera is a highlight – work really well, whilst others go down like a lead balloon. It’s as if the film’s producers resorted to toilet humor once they’d run out of all their witty moments.
And unfortunately for “Johnny English”, he seems a bit dated. If not for the similar Austin Powers movies, maybe a lot of what’s in this film would have played better, and fresher. But as it stands, it looks old hat.
The best thing about the movie is Atkinson himself – typically rubbery, ridiculously funny and at his best, when doing those outlandish facial gestures or some physical comedy. It’s probably one of his better moments on the big screen. As the token love interest, Natalie Imbruglia does quite well, too. It’s clearly evident that she’s got a future in film, as long as she chooses her scripts a little more carefully. Finally, not much of a good word for the usually outstanding Malkovich, he seems so out of place here. How did he get roped into this? His exasperating French accent and dire performance are enough to make you scatter for the exit.
All in all, “Johnny English” isn’t a bad effort. Rowan Atkinson is much more of a comedian than Mike Myers is, but unfortunately Myers had the spy spoof down pat. Still, it may warrant enough of a following to garner a sequel.