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Johnny English (2003)

Directed by:

Peter Howitt

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 104 minutes

UK Certificate: pg

Country: United Kingdom

It's difficult not to fear for any movie re-treading the spy spoof path – are there really any decent jokes left that haven't already been done to death by either “Austin Powers” or “Naked Gun”? The answer, if “Johnny English” is anything to go by, is a resounding no.

Rowan Atkinson, who these days seems intent on covering up his genuine comic talent with endless Mr Bean-like face-pulling, is the bungling MI7 agent of the title. Assisted by trusty sidekick Bough (the marvellous Ben Miller) and slinky love interest Lorna Campbell (Aussie songstress Natalie Imbruglia), he aims to expose the attempts of villainous Frenchman Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich with a dodgy over-played accent) to take over as King.

Part of the problem is that, even allowing for comedic license, the plot just doesn't make any sense. Despite tapping into long-standing anti-French feeling (Atkinson: “the only thing the French should be allowed to host is an invasion” – how topical!), there seems to be absolutely no resistance to the idea of a Frenchman being crowned King. And there are so many holes in the villain's supposed master plan that you suspect even a hero as incompetent as English would have little difficulty in foiling the whole thing.

While there are a few semi-funny moments, this idea (which was originally used in short sketch form to advertise credit cards) just isn't strong enough to carry an entire movie. Imbruglia and Miller are both solid in their limited roles, but Atkinson has few good lines to deliver and Malkovich's performance is nothing short of cringe-worthy.

It's Got: A promising big screen debut from Miss Imbruglia, in her first acting gig since those halcyon days when she played Beth in "Neighbours".

It Needs: To brush up on its geography and stop irritating this reviewer by continually confusing "England" with "Britain".

Alternatives:

Any of the Austin Powers or Naked Gun movies, Bean, Bernard and the Genie, In Like Flint, King Ralph, Our Man Flint, The Parole Officer

Summary

Unoriginal, non-sensical and not particularly funny.

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