Rowan Does Bond Again
8 years after Rowan Atkinson made "Johnny English" I've finally watched it and there is a good reason why it has taken this long. That reason is whilst I loved Atkinson when he did the "Blackadder" shows I lost all interest in him when he did "Mr. Bean" and as there is a touch of the accident prone Mr. Bean to Johnny English and I didn't fancy it. Fortunately whilst the influence of Mr. Bean on the character of Johnny English is evident the movie is a lot funnier than I anticipated and that comes down to the fact that the spoofing of James Bond is on the money. And rather than just silly jokes and gags thrown in because someone thought they would be funny they all play a part in telling the story with some being surprisingly memorable.
When Agent One (Greg Wise) is killed on a secret mission and subsequently all the other agents are killed attending his funeral the head of MI7 is stuck with just one agent, the incompetent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson - Scooby-Doo). And when at a party to showcase the recently restored Crown Jewels they end up being stolen right from under his nose Johnny is determined to find out who the criminal mastermind is behind them. With the help of his loyal sidekick Bough (Ben Miller - The Prince & Me) and the mysterious Lorna Campbell (Natalie Imbruglia) they start to investigate but soon discover the robbery of the jewels is just part of a bigger plan by Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich - Rounders) to depose the Queen as ruler of Great Britain.
So at it's heart "Johnny English" is nothing more than a spoof of the "James Bond" movies which in itself is a little funny as Rowan Atkinson's movie debut came in "Never Say Never Again". But being a spoof what we have is a very simple storyline surrounding French man Pascal Sauvage wanting to rule Great Britain and going to any lengths to achieve this. Why I hear you ask? Well I'm not going to tell you but it is an amusing reason. Anyway with the Royal family in danger what we basically have is Johnny English trying to uncover who is behind the theft of the Crown Jewels which leads him to Sauvage, into trouble and up close and personal with the beautiful and mysterious Lorna Campbell. All of which is basically a simpler and more amusing version of an old James Bond story.
But of course being a spoof "Johnny English" is never really about the story but the humour of how in his own bungling ways Johnny English manages to solve the crime and save the day. Now there is a lot of Mr. Bean about the various humour, a scene of Johnny dancing in the bathroom feels like it could have been plucked out of a "Mr. Bean" movie but it isn't as annoying. In fact some of the humour is quite intelligent especially when it comes to the spoofing of James Bond with various iconic Bond elements such as the gadgets providing plenty of comedy. And of course in true Bond style there is the car, the Aston Martin and the scene which sees Johnny and Bough giving chase with the car swinging off of the edge of a recovery vehicle is both amusing and surprisingly stunning. As such the humour is often surprisingly good and cleverer than you may have anticipated.
What also helps is that whilst Rowan Atkinson as Johnny delivers plenty of face pulling and pretty much all the visual gags he is surrounded by straight guys. Ben Miller as his loyal sidekick Bough is just as funny because he is always trying to keep Johnny out of trouble whilst Natalie Imbruglia not only fills the expected slot of beautiful female she also delivers laughs when it comes to the spoofing of the typical Bond flirtation scene. And then there is John Malkovich who delivers some wonderful French flamboyancy as Pascal Sauvage the evil nemesis. None of the performances are brilliant but the variety certainly helps to make the comedy come off rather than just being one joke after another.
What this all boils down to is that "Johnny English" is unexpectedly entertaining and more intelligent as well. It still is nothing more than a spoof of the James Bond movies but with varied characters, plenty of humour and everything connecting to a storyline rather than being thrown in for shits and giggles it works.