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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Johnny English lets country down
by Matthew Slater
BBC News Online

Ben Miller, Rowan Atkinson and Natalie Imbruglia
Should Pierce Brosnan start worrying?

Rowan Atkinson's spy spoof film, Johnny English, is making waves as the next big British movie.

If Ali G Indahouse is what happens when a TV sketch is stretched to feature film length, imagine just how bad a movie can be if it is made from the meagre scraps of an advert.

A prototype of Johnny English first reared his rubbery face in the mildly amusing Barclaycard adverts Rowan Atkinson did a few years ago.

Sadly, two important developments have occurred since we last saw Atkinson/English clutching that burning birthing mat.

The first is the inexplicable rise of Mr Bean - a global comedy staple that probably contributes more to this country's balance of payments than Yorkshire - and the second is Austin Powers.

The most depressing thing about Johnny English is that you can almost hear it being pitched to Universal Pictures as "that funny mime guy meets Austin Powers, but with more explosions and stunts and, erm, that's it".

Because that really is all there is to this Atkinson vehicle. Whoever said the best ideas are the simple ones deserves to be made to watch this film over and over again for such cheeky glibness.

Rowan Atkinson and Natalie Imbruglia
Johnny (Atkinson) charms Lorna (Imbruglia)
Directed by Peter "Sliding Doors" Howitt, the film's premise is a plot by a French business tycoon called Pascal Sauvage, played by John Malkovich, to steal the crown jewels.

If that is not bad enough, he also has designs on the throne so he can take over Britain and turn it into a prison.

Batting for England in this titanic struggle of good and evil is Atkinson's inept spy, English.

Out of practice and never that good in the first place, English is only called into active service when every other spy on MI-7's books dies.

Not to worry, though, because English has all the latest spy-game technology and a resourceful sidekick called Bough, played by Ben Miller.

Cue much laughter as English breaks all his boys' toys and generally makes a hash of things while Bough does his best to keep the show on the road.

There is one Australian ingredient to this dog's dinner - Natalie Imbruglia.

The former Neighbours favourite and erstwhile pop princess plays Lorna Campbell, a double agent who cannot help but fall for our bumbling hero.

It won't be giving too much away if I say that between them, English, Bough and Campbell thwart Sauvage's plans and save the day.

Lovers of Bean will probably lap this up. Everybody else should approach Johnny English with extreme caution.

And if you stopped laughing after half an hour in the first Austin Powers film, stay away.

With Pierce Brosnan already playing James Bond for laughs, there really is no need for another spy spoof, particularly one with so few jokes.

Johnny English opens across the UK on Friday.




SEE ALSO:
Johnny English: Your views
11 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Spy comedy to promote London
31 Mar 03  |  England
Williams records spy spoof theme
28 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Imbruglia makes spy spoof debut
05 Apr 02  |  Entertainment


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