2003-08-01 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Johnny English’ – Bean As Bond

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Johnny English’ – Bean As Bond

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
‘Johnny English’ – Bean As Bond


Rowan Atkinson’s inept superspy, Johnny English, is far closer to Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau than Mike Myers’ Austin Powers. But, then, the "Mr. Bean" funnyman makes for a highly unusual James Bond.

Atkinson is a classic rubber-faced comedian, who is wonderful with words and sometimes sounds. In "Johnny English," he almost pulls off the façade of a suave secret agent, only to be undone by his deadly incompetence, followed by often-lethal cover-up lies. It has a strange relevance today.

Although lovable, English is not innocent in the face of his own idiocy. However, he is so self-deluded with his image as a master spy that he perseveres despite the consequences. Like Clouseau, his instincts are correct so, in addition to the villain, he has to fight his uptight superior who is determined to take him off the case, rather than embarrass the department and England in general.

"Johnny English" opens with Atkinson’s character having a daydream about himself as James Bond. We soon realize that he is merely a file clerk for her Majesty’s Secret Service. His boss tells him that the only way that he could become a high-level British intelligence agent is if all the others were to die. Before long, every "Bond" is blown to bits, leaving English in the driver’s seat of a super spy sports car. His adversary is French developer Pascal Sauvage (ever hammy John Malkovich).

Directed by Peter Howitt, the movie is loaded with sight gags, most of which stem from our hero’s misreading of almost every situation. One involves the exposing of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s derrière during a coronation.

Another has English dancing on the wrong coffin at a graveside funeral. While in still another instance, he climbs through a sewer pipe which is in simultaneous service by a half dozen government officials using the potties to go poop. When he reunites with his love interest, sexy Interpol agent Lorna Campbell (Natalie Imbruglia), she is rightfully repulsed by his odor. His nonchalant response is: "It’s only a bit of poo." "Johnny English" is a feast for fans of Atkinson, although the comedy (despite the "poo") doesn’t hit you over the head as it does in the "Austin Powers" films. And, it’s not filled with celebrity cameos and references to other films or all things ‘60’s.

It’s worth a look if you seek a chuckle from jolly ole England and Atkinson.

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