Johnny English (2003) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Johnny English (2003)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site

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I went on a fairly brief Twitter rant the other day (less than 140 characters!) lambasting a review I read that gave a film a positive review with the praise "I was never bored." Shouldn't an audience demand something more from a film than not inciting in them an overwhelming sense of apathy? Shouldn't films, in fact, be engaging to a fault?

I guess what this is leading to is the fact that I was never bored watching Johnny English. 'Bored' is an underestimation since I was far closer to that vaulted level known as 'comatose'.

Johnny English falls into the curious trend of early 00's cinema that saw a number of international stars working on subpar action films that were attempting to broaden their star's appeal while simultaneously creating diluted, easily translatable films. The next best example that immediately springs to mind is the Jackie Chan vehicle The Tuxedo, a cheapo flick that combined coarse humor, flat characters, and uninspired set pieces that felt a step above the 'Made for ABC Family' movie quality.

Since there were explosions in Johnny English, it got a theatrical release.

Natalie Imbruglia plays another secret agent who teams up with English.

This film's star is the unbelievably elastic Rowan Atkinson, who'd been blooming on the cusp of stardom after the remarkable international popularity of the Mr. Bean series. He was then keen on trying to make a new comedy brand, and, after Mike Meyer's success with the Austin Powers series, the spy spoof seemed like a surefire bet.

And the beauty of spy spoofs is that they can contain plenty of explosions. Kaboom! Kersplat! These are long, loud moments that punctuate the rather lukewarm bits of physical comedy. The humor here is somewhat akin to muzak-- pleasant, but completely unremarkable.

This is reflected by the slapdash plot, which barely coheres into anything more than a string of inane sketches. John Malkovich plays the main driving force, a man who runs a private prison system, restores jewels, and happens to be a minor member of a minor offshoot of the royal family. All of this has conspired to create a rather egregious series of mental complexes that lead him to overact. So, yeah, he turns in his usual performance.

It's John Malkovich! Oh. Yay.

Luckily for Atkinson, none other than former Australian soap star and one hit wonder Natalie Imbruglia shows up as the competent secret agent who has to politely encourage Johnny on as he fails time after time. "You can do it Johnny!" she says. She has all the function of a sportsbra, and about as much spice.

Johnny English is a commodity, a marketing tool that promises you ninety minutes of Atkinson and a plethora of explosions, and delivers on that with as little effort as possible. If one is in need of a cinematic white noise, this film will do the trick.

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Posted by Danny

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