Mr. Bean makes a fool of himself in Johnny English, a disappointing spy comedy that, despite starring the likes of Rowan Atkinson, is not very funny at all.
Atkinson stars as the title character, a misfit among spies. He is not the brightest of men around, and he has very little deductive abilities. Yet, when all of the other British spies are killed in a bombing, he is brought on to stop the theft of the crown jewels. He fails miserably, but his instincts tell him that a French businessman by the name of Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich) is behind it all, with his eyes set not on the jewels but on the throne. Of course, no one believes him, and with his stupidity, who would?
Atkinson brings his typical character to the spy genre, but without much of the comedy that goes along. Atkinson is always fun to watch - he plays the goofy, ugly Brit to perfection - but he still needs jokes to make a movie enjoyable for an hour and a half. Johnny English just doesn't have many.
Unlike most spy comedies, Johnny English does not try to spoof other films. Sure, there are the typical goofs on gadgetry and charm that can most easily be related to James Bond, but specific references are lacking. Foolishly, the screenwriters forgot that jokes about specific scenes in other, more serious movies are the best and easiest sources for good jokes. The only jokes that made me laugh are typical Atkinson fare, which we've all seen a hundred times before. I liked some of the goofiness of the character, but other than that found little to laugh about.
What really hurts is that Johnny English is too serious for its own good. It, of course, does not have a complicated plot or moving, dramatic scenes, but the film seemed to be focusing way too much on developing the story than on making the audience laugh. In a way, it was nice to see that the character of Johnny English isn't a complete fool - he isn't absurdly off the wall. On the other hand, Mr. English isn't nearly dumb enough to be funny all of the time.
To make matters worse, there are some pathetically bad scenes in the movie. In one scene, Mr. English interrupts a funeral and makes a mockery of himself, thinking that the casket is filled with the stolen crown jewels. Of course, the funeral is real and the movie seems to spend minutes on a dumb skit as English attempts to pose as an escaped mental patient. Yes, it doesn't make much sense, and it had me scratching my head. Another scene that really hurts the movie is the ending, which, actually, is much funnier than the rest of the movie… That is until English lands on top of the bad guy and knocks him out of the throne just as the arch bishop is crowning the king. Of course, the crown lands on Johnny English, and for some reason this gives him momentary powers of authority, even though he just made a complete ass out of himself. He never even gets to prove that the bad guy is the bad guy.
Johnny English is a surprisingly bad movie with little worth seeing. The amount of jokes throughout could easily be crammed into a single skit of Mr. Bean. Atkinson tries his best to make use of the material, but there is no possible way he could have succeeded.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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