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‘Johnny English': a cross-Channel bof!

Unless you’re a diehard Rowan Atkinson fan, spoof spy thriller ‘Johnny English‘ is hardly a film worth taking any trouble to see. Sure, the man wants to shed the ‘Mr Bean’ image a little, but it will take more than this.
Still, if the bungling British secret agent tasked, for lack of anyone else, with protecting the Crown Jewels and saving the nation from a wicked French pretender to the throne comes your way, you might like some uneven entertainment.
An absurd London car chase apart, the movie remained stuck on the tarmac for me until at least halfway, when a predictable twist of the plot opened the way to rather less foreseeable and sometimes funnier muddling through.
John Malkovich lets down more hair than I’ve seen in his serious roles and assumes an outrageous accent to occasionally comic effect as the villain of the piece, private prison entrepreneur Pascal Sauvage.
The film, mainly a vehicle for this odd couple, is directed by Peter Howitt, who last took a swipe at corporate America and rather evidently Bill Gates in particular with the 2001 cyber-thriller, ‘Anti-Trust.’

With that, Howitt had pretentions to delivering a message, if not an original one. ‘Johnny English’ has no such ambitions, but once again left me reflecting that Britain’s creaking monarchy is a fabulously expensive tradition to keep going for the sake of a spectacularly ceremonial day every now and then.
Ben Miller gets a mention for braving it out as English’s long-suffering deputy, Bough.
The girl is Aussie composer-singer Natalie Imbruglia, who is getting hitched, my pop culture source of the day tells me, to Silverchair’s Daniel Johns.

Certainly no more than 4/10, which is about the rate at which the jokes amused me anyway. I was told this film was irreverent, but the humour is stale both there and with regard to the French.
When it comes to having a seriously dark go at British institutions, I’ve yet to see this better done than in ‘If…‘ (director: Lindsay Anderson) and ‘The Ruling Class‘ (director: Peter Medak, with a superb Peter O’Toole). And both of those date back to my latter school years: 1968 and 1972 respectively.

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