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Johnny English (Touch of weevil)

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

A low-ranked British diplomat is mistakenly believed to be the country's most threatening secret agent. Thus, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), master spy, is born.

Persons of interest

  • Rowan Atkinson .... Johnny English
  • John Malkovich .... Pascal Sauvage
  • Natalie Imbruglia .... Lorna Campbell
  • Ben Miller .... Bough
  • Douglas McFerran .... Vendetta
  • Tim Pigott-Smith .... Pegasus
  • Kevin McNally .... Prime Minister
  • Radha Mitchell
  • Neal Purvis .... Screenwriter
  • Robert Wade .... Screenwriter
  • Peter Howitt .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

A bit of fun from the boys who brought you Bean, but with surprisingly few Beanisms. To be sure, Johnny English is a bumbling, wildly inappropriate and ultimately sad character but you don't have to like or even know Bean to like Johnny. That said, you do need to be able to enjoy that painful, embarrassing type of humour that has you hiding in fear as much as laughing out loud.

Johnny English also pokes more than a few sharp sticks at the Hollywood spy and action genres: that's always a good thing. What really surprised me, however, was seeing John Malkovich as the French pretender. What is one of Hollywood's more artistic performers doing as the mono-dimensional bad guy in a low-brow comedy spoof? This is the man who brought to the big screen some of the big screen's best roles. Valmont in Dangerous liaisons, FW Murnau in Shadow of the vampire, Al Rockoff in The killing fields. The only reason I can imagine is that he needed the money and, like all underpaid actors, he prostituted himself with a farcical role in a comedy spoof. He certainly doesn't look happy to be doing the part.

Natalie Imbruglia is also an odd choice, as the Australian-born, Paris-based Interpol agent. She's pretty enough and she fakes her martial arts moves well enough but she has such a cardboard-cutout role that there's nothing to be done with it. Ben Miller's Bough (as in boffin) plays the long-suffering, exceedingly competent without being flashy straight man sidekick well. So well that you'd think the movie would be more interesting if it was about his character rather than Rowan Atkinson's, in a Get Smart kind of way.

In comparison with I spy - which hit the theatres pretty much contemporaneously - I have to say that Johnny English comes out on top: it's less believable which makes it more possible to get away with ridiculous things. The USA spoof takes itself way too seriously to be a comedy and not seriously enough to be a proper spy movie. Johnny just goes for broke.

Consume large amounts of popcorn and soft drink while watching this movie and everything will be all right, tonight. The theme song by Robbie Williams is fun enough that you can watch the closing credits no worries.

Security censorship classification

PG (Medium level violence, low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

87 minutes (1:27 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 10 April 2003

Cinema surveillance images

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